Lured by higher ideals

Lured by higher ideals

A Tale of Two Truths
Ashvin Desai
Penguin, 2009,
pp 134, Rs 199

What is that one thing you should avoid like the plague if you want contentment, joy and peace in your life? Well, it is religion! At least that is what Ashvin Desai’s hilariously written book A Tale of Two Truths convinces you to believe. Justifying the clichéd saying that “All good things come in small packages,” this little book of delightful satire talks about how religion can play havoc with human life if it is not adopted with awareness and discretion.

Dhobi ka Gadha or simply DkG is washerman Sukhiya’s donkey whose consistently unruffled state of mind, free from any emotional fluctuations, could be a matter of envy for even a highly evolved spiritual person. But then, isn’t such a blissful state a crime to indulge in when the real purpose of life is to ponder over higher spiritual truths and liberate oneself from the clutches of Maya? So Langu (the monkey) and Bodhi Toti (the parrot), representatives of the two great religions of Hinduism and Buddhism respectively, volunteer to save DkG from falling into the abyss that spiritual non-inquiry can lead one to.

How Langu and Toti strive relentlessly to lure hapless DkG into their respective faiths and how the whole process turns the simple life of the latter topsy-turvy, forms the story of Desai’s eminently readable book.

In a clever, sarcastic style the book addresses the profound issue of how religion, instead of being a pathway to freedom, can prove to be a trap to ensnare gullible people in the hands of religious bigots. Though other enticements offered by Langu and Toti fail to motivate DkG to become religious, the lure of being born as Dhobi in one of his future births by following the path of Dharma and Karma seems quite alluring to him. Cashing in on this desire of DkG to have a better life in his future birth, Langu and Toti double their efforts to tighten the noose of religion around their victim’s neck.

What happens when someone as simple as DkG whose thoughts don’t travel beyond his concern for his next meal is made to ponder over serious matters like God, Moksha, Nirvana, Dharma and Karma? How do Langu and Toti manage to convince DkG to give up his simple life for realising the higher truths of religion? Will DkG choose freedom over the restricting ways of religion, or give in to the cunning tactics of Langu and Toti? Desai gives the reader much to chew on while answering these questions in his thoroughly enjoyable book.

The supporting characters in the book contribute very well to add interesting dimensions to the main theme and there is never a dull moment in the entire narration. A Tale of Two Truths is a rare andpleasant addition to the delightful genre of satiric fables and makes the reader long for more such works.

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