A search for the truth : The Tribune India

A search for the truth

A search for the truth

Following A Prayer: A Novel by Sundar Sarukkai. Tranquebar Books. Pages 240. Rs 599

Harvinder Khetal

THE latest book from the stable of philosopher-author Sundar Sarukkai, ‘Following A Prayer: A Novel’, is another thought-provoking attempt at taking philosophy to the youth. As the title suggests, it is the story of the protagonist, 12-year-old Kalpana, who sets out on a journey to see where the words of her grandma Ajji’s prayer go.

And it is this chase, in which later her younger sister Deeksha and the latter’s friend Kumari also join her, that becomes the canvas to bring home some elementary but deep messages. While employing kids is an effective mode to keep the youth engaged in the enchanting tale, there is enough food for thought for adults as Sarukkai addresses the timeless topics of sound and silence, language and music, fear and faith, light and darkness.

The girls’ run-ins with family members and teachers trigger their curious minds — Where do words come from, the mouth or the brain? How do they reach god? If the regular gods can’t listen as the humans’ words don’t reach them, then is the brain the real god?

The novel is gripping from the start as the chirpy Kalpana goes missing, and then suddenly appears three days later, much to the relief of her family, school and village in Karnataka. But, for some reason, she has resolved to stop talking after her little adventure and communicates only through actions or scribbling; enigmatic clues about Ajji being the catalyst are thrown around.

And then, in an unexpected denouement, just after Kalpana decides to speak again, the story comes full circle, with all three girls going missing as they follow the sounds of rain and thunder into the dense forest. As in most philosophical novels, though this is also open-ended, it enriches about certain eternal questions of life. Warranting consideration is the thought of Gangamma, the music teacher: “God is not an individual but a process, a constant search through sounds.”

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