Searching for the essence
Reviewed by Randeep Wadehra

The Missing Rose 
by Serdar Ozkan
Wisdom Tree.
Pages 192. Rs 245.

THE weak-minded Diana lives in Rio de Janeiro. She dreams of becoming a writer but is influenced by her peers and trains to become a lawyer; she shapes her worldview according to others’ opinions, becoming a confused, directionless person in the process. Her mother, while on her deathbed, confesses to having given birth to Diana’s twin, Maria, and tells her of the letters written recently by the latter. Thereafter, Diana has odd encounters with a fortune-telling beggar and a painter of seascapes. All these experiences send her on a journey to Istanbul, which turns out to be a weird spiritual peregrination: Roses that talk and a flowerpot that has twin roses – black and pink – signifying the ego and soul, respectively. There is another named Socrates that becomes accessible only to evolved souls.

The "missing rose" may be interpreted, at the material level, as a symbol of Diana’s twin Maria, who participates only by writing letters and is never present in person. However, at the philosophical/spiritual level, the "missing rose" may be taken for the absence of true perception and, in a sense, the absence of "soul" in our day-to-day living. Our prejudices, greed and ambitions prevent us from looking at the cosmos as one united whole. Once the "missing rose" is discovered scales fall from our eyes, enabling us to gain knowledge of the cosmic purpose and of the soul’s unity with the rest of the creation. This is the path that Diana would eventually take. The narrative is absorbing. The gradual manner in which Diana sheds her ego ("kills" her "self") and rediscovers her true self impels one to read the book from first page to the last.

The Mahabharata
(Vol. 1) translated by Bibek Debroy.
Pages xxxviii+495. Rs 550.

There have been umpteen translations of Mahabharata – generally abridged and quite a few of them incomplete due to various reasons. The epic is certainly vast in size. Originally, it was believed to have over 1,00,000 shlokas as composed by Krishna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa. However, over a period of time, only 90,000 of these shlokas survived – still making it the longest epic in the world. Debroy observes that the Mahabharata has three versions. The original version, Jaya, had 8,800 shlokas, which was expanded to 24,000 shlokas and was named Bharata, culminating in the final version, Mahabharata. Again, the final version, too, had several recensions, of which the critical unabridged version produced by the Pune-based Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute is considered the most authentic. Debroy is translating this version which includes Hari Vamsha and has about 80,000 shlokas. The current volume is only 10 per cent of the total project that is scheduled to have 10 volumes.

The quality of translation is excellent. The lucid language makes it a pleasure to read the various stories, digressions and parables. Can’t wait for the other volumes!

Social Transformation of an Island Nation
By Rani Mehta & S. R. Mehta.
Pages 256. Rs 690.

Although Mauritius is a small island nation, it is a multi-ethno-cultural society consisting of Whites, Creoles, Chinese, Muslims and Indians. The last named form more than 50 per cent of the population. After gaining independence, its leadership faced the problem of economic development and socio-cultural cohesion. For long, it has been a mono-crop agricultural economy. However, its development was facilitated by a combination of factors including international cooperation and a visionary political leadership. The father-daughter Mehta duo has painstakingly collected relevant data to present a comprehensive contemporary picture of Mauritius through this well researched tome. Rani Mehta, who is a PU don, was born in Mauritius and S. R. Mehta has worked on important developmental projects there. This book can be useful to scholars.