Posted by: keherenf | January 11, 2008

A River Sutra

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Some of the best gifts you can share with someone is information and wisdom. I received this book from my best friend for Christmas anticipating a great read, which is exactly what I found from beginning to end.
With my affinity for literary devices, I felt one of the most impressive components to this story was the beautiful imagery used. Gita Mehta uses this book and the river itself as a canvas, the words and the pages painting vivid colors and images throughout. This story continually returns to one central location, the holy river called Narmada. It is on this river that Mehta portrays dancing women with brilliant colored garments, lovers embracing in a tranquil field, a disfigured daughter falling in love with music, a blind singer tragically murdered. All stories are so separate, and yet in some form or another they are all connected to the tranquility and the allure of the beautiful river which brings peace to those who seek it. It is this intricate depiction of each individual snapshot in time that impressed me most structurally.
It is also this expert crafting of the story which prevented me from predicting the surprise ending. Each individual story presented it’s own plot and climax, and because it is so cleverly produced there is little need to try and make connections. For all the audience knows, each person is solely connected to the river which they travel to as a pilgrimage to purify themselves. Because this book is so strong, this more than suffices.
But Mehta completes her novel by allowing the story to connect full circle. Earlier in the story, she introduces an ascetic monk (traveling monk) who buys an abused girl and shows her true love, dedicating his life to remaining pure and holy. At the end of the story, a scientist comes to the man who lives on the river to say that he will be doing experiments on it. The man who lives on the river becomes upset after a few days, and feels as though the scientist does not respect the holiness of the river. But, in a beautiful night revelation, the man on the river learns that the scientist was actually the ascetic monk. He explains that one must cycle through life 84,000 times before they move on.
Thus, in one page the entire novel connects fully by threading each unique story and person to one another. Like many other great books I have read, this one emphasizes how all people are connected in some form or another, and it is therefore implied that we should live our lives knowing that this intricate weave exists. Similar to the book Siddhartha in which the reader follows a man’s journey to Enlightenment, the river itself represents the journeys that so many people partake in to discover their Enlightenment.
If you enjoy exotic locations (this one is in India)and a collection of intriguing short stories intertwined with majestic images which are all rolled together in one enlightening surprise ending, this book would be a great choice for you.
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