At Nathu La, the air is thin—sucking the very life out of you. Comes another sledge-hammer blow stunning the senses. At this outpost on the Indo-Tibetan border, you hear of the late Sepoy Harbhajan Singh, the 23-year-old born in a village in Kapurthala District, who enrolled into the Punjab Regiment.
While escorting a mule column on October 4, 1968, he slipped and fell into a nullah. The water carried his body two kilometres downstream where it was found three days later and cremated with full military honours.
“Done and dusted!’ That was that! Or so they thought. At night he was back in a fellow trooper’s dream. Later his unit built a shrine. I found it lined with bottles of water, kept there and capable of curing ailing persons. Units of the Indian Army posted in the region seek Baba’s blessing. They believe that he warns them of an impending attack days in advance. The army even promoted him to an Honorary Captain sending his cheque to his family. His belongings were packed and accompanied by soldiers, sent to Kapurthala by train and brought back once a year till he retired.
So revered is he, that even the Chinese on the other side of the border leave a seat vacant for Baba as a sign of respect at flag meetings. ‘Why did I go there?’ You wonder. ‘Pure unadulterated curiosity!’ was my reason. For years, I had heard tales of this extraordinary man, who reportedly slaps soldiers awake if found napping on duty. The Vault of Vishnu begins a little way away in Doklam as soldiers of the 17 Mountain Division brace themselves. Armed to the teeth, Chinese soldiers slither down taut ropes. A confrontation is brewing. Elsewhere, a Pallava prince is going off to Cambodia to be crowned king.
He carries with him secrets that will be the cause of great wars someday many centuries later. A Buddhist monk in ancient China treks south to India, searching for the missing pieces of a puzzle that could make his emperor all-powerful. A pre-Neolithic tribe fights to preserve their sacred knowledge, oblivious to the war drums on the Indo-China border. Meanwhile, far away in the temple town of Kanchipuram, a reclusive scientist deciphers ancient texts even as a team of secret agents shadows his every move. Caught in the storm is a young investigator with a complex past of her own, who must race against time to maintain the balance of power in the new world.
You are back to the world of Ashwin Sanghi, where myth and history blend into edge-of-the-seat action. Another blockbuster from Ashwin where he turns bioengineering attractive by serving a silver platter fit for a king. In the beginning you are treated to Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Hanuman Gayatri mantra. Then comes a sketch of Hsuan-Tsang’s journey, followed by the more recent standoff at Doklam. After this there is the fictitious meeting at Integrated Defence Staff HQ. Then, of course, is the gripping plot narrated in classic style. A very interesting and intriguing thriller, thanks to the author’s storytelling gift and painstaking research on Hindu metaphysics. Watch out for this one! Here comes another one lofted by Ashwin Sanghi way over the boundary.