Title: Manjhi, the boatman
Author: Dr. Rajan Sankaran
ISBN: 979-8-88641-544-5, 1ST edition 2022
237 Pages, Paperback
Reviewer: Vatsala Sperling
Manjhi, the boatman, is a book that hovers magically between fact and fiction. Dr. Manish Bhatia describes it as fiction. ‘Fiction?’ I ask myself in disbelief, ‘from Dr. Sankaran?’ My genuine surprise is stained with a few drops of disbelief, ‘Why on earth would Dr. Sankaran ever want to write fiction?’
To find the answer, I had to read the book. I enjoyed it much and read it a few more times. Just like fables, parables, fairytales and stories, this book, a work of fiction, delivers the punch where needed…and without the feeling that you are reading a dry book on philosophy and preaching by some guru. You get to absorb the truths that resonate most with you, as you find yourself drawn deeper into the author’s rich imagination.
Most of us have been looking up to Dr. Rajan Sankaran as a teacher and we almost expect him to have all the answers to everything to do with homeopathy. We have seen him growing from a youthful newbie to a calmer, wiser teacher with an abundant streak of silver in his hair.
Along the way, his teachings have morphed, matured, crystallized, and come to a full. We have also wondered about Dr. Sankaran, the person, wondered what he learned while he taught. Remember, we heal our patients, and something in us heals too, we teach, and we learn something too. Human interactions and engagements are usually a two-way street, and each party gains something, while apparently, it is giving!
So, I pick up the book for yet another re-read, and it occurs to me that Dr. Sankaran has adeptly woven a tapestry of life-lessons, life-experiences, sprinkled it generously with interesting fictional characters that mirror a real-life character, and presented it all in a fun, and easy to read book that hovers magically between fact and fiction. For example, the lead character in the book, Gensheng Lama. As I was inching toward the end of the book, I was almost praying that Gensheng Lama would be a real person, but whether he is real or not, I will let you discover for yourself.
As you read the book, you will recognize events and characters that you have encountered or heard about in the author’s personal life. Those very same events and people are in the book, albeit in a fictional persona. However, written in first person, this book has a feel as if Dr. Sankaran is addressing the readers directly, instead of through a fictional character that represents him.
The most appealing part of this book is that though a fiction, in its pages, it contains life-lessons that we are seeking to learn and that might have eluded us so far. Each one of the 28 brief chapters reveal some truth that we are waiting to encounter, but he says, ‘while everything in this book is completely true, none of it ever happened.’ He adds further, ‘It depends on how you want to see it. And what it triggers in you. And how you use that to become aware.’ “Becoming aware” if this is your intention, then this is a book that you are going to surely enjoy.
As his personal life, health, and professional responsibilities begin to take an unpleasant turn, the protagonist wonders about meaning and purpose of life and travels to Rishikesh where an old man suddenly appears, appoints himself as the author’s guide, speaks very good English, and is quite endearing none-the-less whom the author could not simply push aside or ignore. This guide answers logical questions by rising above logic and dipping into another dimension far from logic. Truly, don’t we all need such a guide in our own lives?
From one page to the next, we are treated to pearls of wisdom, nuggets of life-lessons that were borne out of the protagonist’s time and interaction with Gensheng Lama, the final one being, there is no purpose to awareness, awareness is not a route to anywhere. To be in awareness is a way of being. It is not even a choice.
As the Author soaks up these lessons, his darkest night of the soul is behind him, and he is about to become alive again with the new and true love of his life. He experiences new hope in the form of a new companion and beloved soulmate, who becomes interested in meeting Gensheng Lama and the couple make a trip to Rishikesh to meet the Lama. At this point, the author makes a strange and surprising discovery – and I will not spoil your fun by writing about it.
The beauty of this book is that it makes you want to believe every word in it – as if it really happened – and enables you to grab a bagful of life-lessons that you have been waiting to learn all along. These life lessons literally come out of nowhere, nothing, no one…
If such is life, a mere line on the shifting sand, and if such is this book, Manjhi, the boatman, a fictional chronicle of events that never happened, then apparently, both are full of purpose and light, if we simply chose to ‘be aware’ and observe. So, why not pick up and read this book from Paulo Coelho of Homeopathy, Dr. Rajan Sankaran?
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