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January 15, 2013

Book Review - 112 : The Rozabal Line

Author : Ashwin Sanghi
Publisher : Westland

This review has been pending for a long time. I have read the book quite some time back but actually have to re-read certain portions in order to absorb everything and then sat down to pour my thoughts in the form of a book review. There is tremendous outflow for the conspiracy fans and someone who has always been a big fan of Dan Brown's novels, this one is truly Indian in its approach and that's where you feel more kicked about going through the narrative again.

Ashwin Sanghi has taken up the creative liberty of using various religious facts in order to whip up an epic fictional thriller. He speculates that Jesus Christ survived the crucifixion and spent his missing years in India, and that the men searching for Jesus were Buddhist Monks who were searching for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. He mentions that the lost tribes of Israel may have settled in Kashmir. He also introduces St. Thomas as one of Jesus’s closest friends and Mary Magdalene as a woman from the ancient Mauryan Empire headed by Ashoka. Sanghi’s hypothesis goes on to establish that Jesus’s descendants are today’s Kashmiri Islamists. The author draws some similar lines between the fate of a group of terrorists and that of Jesus and his 12 apostles. The book traces the roots of various religions and states that all their origins are closely knit.

The life of Christ in India has been the subject matter of many a non-fiction book, but fiction books on the subject are few. Save for the 70’s novel “The Thomas Document” by Hugh Gantzer, I don’t think there has been any other novel that has exploited this theme. To take threads of myriad colour and make something which is good, cohesive and symmetric is no easy task. The religions of the world and their subgroups, international politics, terrorism, secret societies, astrologers, past life regression therapy, temples and churches, international assassins, presidents and religious leaders- this has it all.

Several questions remain, some of them being: Why did Thomas continue to preach Christ crucified and risen to those first Brahmin converts on the Malabar coast when his master himself was alive and living in Kerala? If Jesus didn’t really travel to India, why does the legend of Yuz Asaf resemble him so closely? If Jesus and the hermetic Essene sect (that John the Baptist also belonged to) were not influenced by Buddhism, what are we to make of what is now known as “The Jesus Scrolls” at the Hemis Monastery in Tibet — scrolls that tell of an Essene scholar who studied at the monastery? Where — and who — are Jesus’ Indian descendants now?

It is not that writing is free from flaws. With extra short chapters in between all through the narrative, the ride is at times jerky and in the end, there are just so many characters to deal with that you require a master guide to remember who is who in the story. The narrative at times jumps from one chapter to another across continents and characters which makes difficult to absorb the intentions of all the characters in first reading.

I am going with 4/5 for Ashwin Sanghi's debut novel 'The Rozabal Line'. It is a terrific debut novel which was waiting to be explored. It was first published in 2007 under Sanghi's pseudonym Shawn Haigins in the United States. The revised edition was later published in India under Sanghi’s own name in 2008 before Westland published it in 2010. Thank god for that! Don't miss it, it deserves your money and time.

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