The retro maharaja
Reviewed by Aradhika Sharma
Maharaja in Denims
by Khushwant Singh Amaryllis
Pages 175. Rs 225

THE title and the cover of the book is indication enough as to what you can expect from it! Maharaja in Denims is no tome on statesmanship or dry-as-dust antiquity, but a robust work of fiction, based on historical reality.

The fiction, however, does not detract from the authenticity of narrative which strides across several time zones in the history of the Punjab.

Maharaja in Denims by Khushwant Singh Amaryllis Pages 175. 
Rs 225

The novel is based on the life of Hari, a youth typical of Chandigarh, studying (when he has no option but to), having sex with beautiful girls and hanging out with friends.

Hari starts believing that he is the reincarnation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He gets visions of his past lives that are inextricably linked with the tempestuous past of Punjab.

The reader, along with Hari, is hurtled from one historical scenario to another, with Punjab holding centrestage; Hari is the actor who must play an important role on it with different stage setups. His misfortune is that the past lives within him. It's a difficult role for a careless, young lad to handle, but he does so with the help of his girlfriend Suzanne, practising to be a psychologist.

While doing past-life regression on her troubled boyfriend, to get to the source of the visions, she discovers that not just is Hari the reincarnation of the mighty Lion of Punjab, but has had several other past lives. He has lived through days of terrorism (Delhi's shameful 1984 anti-Sikh riots) and Partition; the goriest period when Punjab bled, while its children hacked away at its heart.

The writer admits that he has been greatly influenced by Dr Weiss's book Many Lives, Many Masters, and thus perhaps his interest in parapsychology. He put himself through past-life regression.

The strength of the book, however, lies in the fact that neither is it pure philosophy, nor history nor psychology. It's an interesting story of an ordinary young man, who willy-nilly finds himself to be a reincarnation. It also lies in the clever use of the language with Punjabi phrases nicely interjected in the book.

There is Plenty for everyone here history, romance, excitement and sex! Come and take your pick.