PLOT: 3.5/5 CHARACTERS: 3.5/5 WRITING STYLE: 4/5 CLIMAX: 3/5 ENTERTAINMENT: 4/5
“In spite of the filth, noise and grime, the city had a strange sense of orderliness to it in the madness, perfection in its randomness, a sense of the ethereal in its earthiness.”
– Manoj V Jain, Meeting Yama
Some of my memorable spiritual reads over the years have been Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, Ravi Kailas and Cathy Guo’s Myth of the Entrepreneur, and Jay Shetty’s Think Like a Monk. These may or may not have been spiritual reads in the traditional sense but they do carry immense wisdom for anyone who wants to learn. My latest read in the genre is a tale of three unconnected lives who come to Varanasi seeking different things. Read on to know more about my thoughts on author Manoj V Jain’s Meeting Yama and about my experience of reading it.
What to expect?
Expect a book that delves into both spirituality and mythology. Expect a book that narrates the story of three different individuals whose fates intertwine in the city of Varanasi. Expect a book that will appeal to readers with a spiritual bend of mind.
Who can read?
The book is written in a language that can be easily read by beginners. It does make use of rich words and descriptive narrations that embellish the text, but the overall content is meant only for a particular category of readers – those with an interest in the mystical world.
At the very first glance, it is the striking cover that catches your eye. The minimalistic design, complete with the striking image of a handsome young man, and the title in bold red font is designed to lure the reader.
Further, you will find that the premise is also quite interesting. It is able to sow the seeds of some interesting questions that leaves the reader wondering. The blurb talks about death and how some people walk slowly, others run towards it, how some skip and dance their way there, while some others crawl towards it. What a thought and what deep observations!
Quick to impress
While some tales take time to get the interest build up, in Meeting Yama, the story catches the reader’s fancy right from the first few pages, as we learn about Amrit and his family, and his journey from Mumbai to Varanasi.
The story as it goes
Meeting Yama is the story of 3 different people who come to Varanasi for different reasons, each seeking an answer to his questions and each looking for the resolution of their issues.
Amrit, who through a chance encounter happens to learn about the power of telephonic communication, and because of one such mysterious telepathic message, is now in the city to immerse his mother’s ashes.
Surya, who finds his calling by the way of a cryptic dream that he saw of a black idol with a garland of orange flowers. The deity urges Surya to come find him, indicating that he will be waiting for Surya’s arrival.
Rajat, a busy doctor, a man of science, who only believes in things that can be explained through science. Rajat’s exploration of Varanasi is not driven by any internal pull, but by the directions of his wife and his superior at work, both of whom encourage him to take a solo trip for some inner reflection.
The infusion of mythology
One of the things that makes this book stand apart is the generous infusion of various mythological stories. Once the characters have been introduced and their backstories established, the book delves into Hindu mythology and acquaints the reader with timeless tales of many known and relatively unknown figures from our ancient scriptures. These include tales of Nachiket, Yama, Yami, Manu, Savitri, etc.
Ease of reading
The book is easy and effortless to read. Even though it touches upon some hyper realistic and unusual concepts, the pace of the story is fast, with enough intrigue to keep the reader turning pages after pages.
A bonus addition
Every chapter opens with a beautiful quote or two that are not just relevant to the current chapter, but also carry deep meaning and profound wisdom.
Imaginative and vivid descriptions with sound backstories
In Meeting Yama, the writing is imaginative and makes good use of many descriptive elements to bring life to the characters and their stories. We get to know about how they live, what they love, what their habits are, what their aspirations are, and what they use as decorations in their house. In this way, the readers are shown rather than told about the characters and their traits.
The flashbacks make for sound backstories as they get the reader hooked and invested in the lives of the three characters. What I particularly liked is how the author manages to get the reader interested in not just the three main characters but also many other supporting characters that are part of the overall plot.
Characters that have been shaped by trauma
In Meeting Yama, we see characters that have had tragic traumatic experiences which have shaped not just their personalities but also their traits, their emotions, their insecurities, and their nature. Whether it is Amrit or Surya or Damayanti, their tragedies are what connects them to the reader.
What could have been better?
The book relies more on descriptions rather than conversations to take the story forward. The lengthy paragraphs sometimes tire the reader, making them lose interest. I wish more attention was paid to paragraph spacing and conversations.
Who should read?
If you are someone with a mystic and spiritual bent of mind, Meeting Yama is the book for you, as it touches upon some surreal concepts that have been spoken about in our ancient scriptures and texts. These concepts include single consciousness of all beings, telepathic communication through harnessing the power of various energies by the way of yoga, and many such concepts that might be eyed with skepticism by many readers. So, reading the book is a matter of faith and belief in such things and such concepts.
The climax gives a befitting end to the stories of these three characters, but I am afraid it is not as exciting as the rest of the book. It seems a tad hasty in writing and doesn’t do justice to the build-up preceding it.
Makes you want to pack your bags
The lively and beautiful descriptions of the ancient and holy city of Varanasi are vivid and detailed. Be it the ancient ghats, or the stories behind their origins, be it the temples or the mesmerizing aura of the river Ganga, or the many culinary delights that the city has to offer – these descriptions charm you, enchant you, and make you want to pack your bags, and just take a trip to the city of infinite contradictions and dualities.
In the end
In the end, Meeting Yama is like a crash course in spirituality, self-introspection, and reflection. There is infinite wisdom to be found in its 230+ pages, and anyone with a bent for learning has a lot to gain from it.
Pick the book if
- You enjoy spiritual reads.
- The idea of a novel based in Varanasi appeals to you.
- You are looking for books that put you on the path of self-introspection.
- You love discovering new Indian authors.
- You love reading tales and ideas from the vast resources of ancient Hindu texts and scriptures.
- You have an interest in hyper-realistic and metaphysical concepts.
Skip the book if
- You don’t like novels that have a spiritual bent.
Can’t wait to read it? buy your copy of Meeting Yama using the link below.