The friendless god was sent to me by the author some time back. It took me a long time to pull it out and read. I guess this was the right time to read it when I am reading and translating Ayodhya Mahatmaya from Skand Puran. As always books choose the right time for me to read them.
The story is set in Andhra and Telangana, primarily in the town of Bhadrachalam temple. It is the most popular Ram temple in south India. So, I was quite keen to know about how the people of this region, especially this town relate to Sri Ram. It is the story of three characters – mother Vaidehi, her son Kodanda and his friend Raman. If you notice, they all derive their names from Ramayana, which is expected.
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Now each of the characters has a different relationship with God. Vaidehi hates him, she can not stand anything that has any reference to Ram or anything to do with his story. Forget visiting the temple, she does not want any painting or even a plant associated with Vishnu in her house. Her son can not touch anything that has anything to do with Ram. Why is she like this? The author has kept it to herself. I kept hoping that some back story would pop up some time to tell us why she has so much of hate for the Gods.
Her son, as it happens is intrigued about the temple that he is restricted from visiting. Fate takes him to the temple premises along with his friend. The more he visits the temple for a platform that some people come to pray to, the more he is intrigued about God. One day hears that God is friendless, and keeps wondering why is he Godless. His journey takes him to different people but ends as soon as his mother discovers any hint of God being there.
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Raman is indifferent. He keeps moving trying to earn his living. Passing by the mining and Naxal belt, he reaches Hyderabad to work with a politician in search of a cause to launch his career. Circumstances that both the boys to Ayodhya on a fateful day.
Now, I think the story idea is excellent. Not many know about temple towns like Bhadrachalam outside of South India. The connection of that place to Ayodhya is a great angle to explore. Especially through the lens of current times. However, the execution leaves too many open questions. Why is the woman so against religion and God? How does the boy acquire so much devotion for an unseen God? What was the role of that small mining story inserted in an already long story? Who’s grave or dargah is in the temple complex? Too many things left open for the reader to imagine.
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Chapters are small and well-paced. But I think the book could have been much shorter and crisp. Good editing would have brought the focus on the subject. I hope the author gets it edited and re-publishes it sometime in the future. There is also inconsistency in the level of detail. Somewhere she goes into details that are not relevant to the story like different ragas, at other places they are simply left out.
Take your call.