Book: A Man from Mandu
Author: Manoj V Jain
Publisher: Notion Press
Pages: 168 pages; Price: Rs 349
Godmen and conmen are always in the news. They are always topical and the fact that many godmen are conmen makes them newsworthy also. Every channel nowadays has either godmen sharing their wisdom or conmen being arrested for trying to pass off as gurus and for trying to fleece the public and indulging in other illegal activities. Author Manoj V Jain dives into this world and presents us with Avishkar Baba in this new tome named A Man from Mandu.
The book is basically about two people and their journey that sees a transformation take place. It is the story of Tarini who, because of a bet with a friend, is looking to take an ordinary conman and market him into the space of a new age godman. This is the ‘project’ she believes will revive her floundering corporate career as it will showcase her marketing skills as she creates ‘Brand Avishkar Baba’.
And it is also about Dhawal, the ‘man from Mandu’, and how he becomes a spiritual seeker. Interspersed in between these two narratives are numerous short stories. The author in an interview had also stated that the book is just a vehicle for these assorted stories that are presented as sermons by the ‘sadhu of stories’.
Tarini justifies creating ‘Avishkar Baba’ and promoting him by saying, “Film-makers call themselves peddlers of dreams, she thought, and writers claim poetic license. Then what is so wrong with what we are doing? We are, in reality, providing a service to the people. I have given them someone who will make their lives better.”
And this open admission seems to work for the character. The character arcs go on expected lines and there are no sudden twists. But that doesn’t necessarily make the book a bad read at all. In fact it is an easy read that can be finished at one go. The short stories told by Dhawal or ‘Avishkar Baba’ are truly the main screw holding the story together. What makes it special is that it starts out as a story of people being exploited in the name of religion, but along the way it changes to focus on the story of one of the people involved who in all actuality transcends into spirituality.
But the story is also about the faithful who believe these godmen, who invest emotionally and financially in these gurus. As the author says in the afterword: “Is Avishkar Baba a holy man or fraud? The answer, like all answers, lies within each of us. It is faith...” So look inside and decide. Not only to make up your mind on whether or not you want to read this book, but also on whether to believe in someone or something.