"What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expected generally happens" - famous words spoken by British politician and author, Benjamin Disraeli.
"So true", is how we will all respond on hearing this quotation. Rarely do we find people or rather find ourselves in a situation when things have actually gone the way we wanted them to be. And I, for one can vouch for this profound quote cent percent. Be it a major event like a marriage or a minor event like looking forward to a quiet afternoon with my beloved books, it is always the opposite of what I had in mind.
My equation with Mr. Tejpal will definitely fall in this category. When my cousin Ankur, another keen book lover, recommend Tarun Tejpal's books I was curious to find out how this journalist would bring together a book. The Alchemy Of Desire surpassed all my expectations in terms of writing, plot, characters, detail and a pretty good dose of scandalising content. I was really impressed by him and wanted to read his other books too. But it was during this time that news surfaced of him, taking advantage of his position and sexually harassing a young journalist working in his firm, who was moreover, a friend of his daughter. I was in a moral deliemna as to whether I should ever read anymore of his books. I will be lying if I said I was not tempted as I really enjoyed reading his first book. This time too Ankur came to my moral rescue. He told me not to think too deep and gifted me 'The Valley Of Masks'.
To say that I was not expecting anything great form this book would be a major omission of fact by me. I was so excited in getting this book that I started it immediately promising myself that instead of hurrying through the pages to finish the book, I will read it slowly enjoying the beauty of the words and use my imagination to visualise the scenes as they unfold. But I should have known myself better and realised that though I am always in a hurry to start a new book, I am way too eager to finish it fast, in order to find out how it all ends in the author's mind.
But keeping my promise to myself I started reading the book at a leisurely pace and waiting for the actual story to begin as I kept finishing the pages. By the time I finished the first 100 pages, I was totally taken aback in disappointment as it was nothing to what I expected and felt cheated out. I was frustrated and I began to skip elaborate descriptions of locations, certain long monologues as I just wanted to finish it off. By the time I finished 2/3rd of the book I was certain that this one has been a true case of over expectation on my side. But here again I was in for a surprise- the last 1/3rd portion of the story completely shook me up from a state of semi consciousness and made me sit alert. I had to finish it entirely in one go as I just could not keep it down. The last section salvaged the book and brought it back into my spectrum of interest and I was totally in sync with the the character's thought process, his plan of actions and could now totally correlate the story from the beginning till the end. And for this I think Mr. Tejpal has once again made a place as an author worth reading in my limited intellect and understanding.
I, for once, cannot talk about the storyline as it would mean spoiling the suspense and the surreal feeling you experience on reading this book. All I can say that as the name suggests, the story is about a civilization based high above the mountains in a valley where the way of living is just the complete opposite to the way we humans live in our society. We build our lives centering on success, both in the material as well as spiritual form, sorrounded by extreme emotions of love, anger, hate, jealousy, possessiveness, pride, selfishness, lies, truth, betrayal and insecurity. But the people living in that valley were governed by just one truth and it was the profound truth of the first sound, the first being, the first particle of our universe, Aum.
Tejpal has to be given credit for highlighting the degrading and deeply negative aspects of us, the civilized 21st century society who are so blinded by power, that knowingly or unknowingly we have embroiled ourselves in the vicious circle of money, power, politics and a general apathy towards our fellow beings. But the author firmly believes that inspite of all that is wrong in this world, there are a few who are guided by their conscience and the greater truth to fight injustice, to fight corruption, to fight oppression. And there are those people who are more virtuous than any priest or god-man, because they understand that it is stupidity to imagine that the world will ever be fixed. They have the wisdom to understand that this life with all it's impurities has to be endured and the biggest secret that helps them to enter the perfect moment admist all their worries and problems is MUSIC.
I totally agree with Mr. Tejpal here and salute the common man who continues to move ahead in life with his head held high, heart full of dreams and an optimism for a better, brighter future, facing all the hardships head-on.