“An intense yet tender look at a rare friendship as well as the abiding puzzles of the past, this is a fascinating read.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Time travel has fascinated generations from Mark Twain onwards and explorations of parallel universes have happened in films like the Back to the Future series. Namita Gokhale extends the phenomenon to the magical world of the Mahabharata.
Her hero Chintamani – known much to his irritation as Chintu Pintu – finds himself switching timeframes on a trip to Naini Tal. He literally swims into the world of the Mahabharata wearing his trunks with a plastic watch on his wrist and after a while he encounters Ghatotkach, the half giant son of the hero Bhima.
Communication between the ages appears to be simple – Chintamani and Ghatotkacha can read each other’s minds and Gokhale establishes a relationship between the two – though the world of the giants appears to be somewhat tribal. Chintu’s aim is to return to his own time where his parents’ marriage is breaking up and he does it through the help of a shaman-like Mahavidya who talks about the serpent of time and the possibility of parallel universes. Along the way Chintu also meets the god of wealth Kuber, who gifts him a time crystal, and realizes that in the end time itself is an illusion and the whole thing is a fantastic game.
Of course the story of his successful return to his own time and place does not complete the book – after recovering from fever as a result of shifting time zones, Chintu finds Ghatotkacha visiting him and his newly orphaned cousin Karuna.
Gokhale tells a story of friendship between the unlikeliest of people verging on Muggles and magicians lines though not quite. Ghatotkacha maintains his links with Chintamani even as his timeline progresses rapidly. Amar Chitra Katha and Gokhale’s own children’s Mahabharata come into the book – Chintu’s cousin Karuna in fact gets all her mythological information from Amar Chitra Katha with a little help from Chintu’s time travelling. The story of parents breaking up and love and loss act as a subtle undercurrent to the story – Bhima for example has broken all contact with his first wife Hidimba despite loving his son.
Gokhale has obviously kept her Ghatotkacha tale slim keeping children’s short attention spans in mind, but the book has a lot of information to deliver and that could have done with a tad more detail.
Added 2nd December 2017