The Path of Light retells stories from the Upanishads, the Jatakas and Asian folklore. Moving, amusing and extraordinary, this unusual collection is its own first from across the Indic tradition. Sort-of –known and unheard of , these magical tales take us from the banks of the Yamuna to the Kaveri and the Iravati, to the Himalayan foothills and across the the Eastern seas. They map the journey of the human heart through the pleasures and pitfalls of existence, fusing the past with the present in a happy continuum.
Welcome to this collection of old Indian stories, with a few from South East Asia. I have retold them because I found them moving, amusing or extraordinary. They happened to come my way, touched a chord and allowed me elbow room as a modern storyteller.
I lack the words to properly express my wonder at the vast heritage of Indian storytelling—its depth and range, its inventiveness and subtle in-house cues. For instance, while retelling the story of Pingala, the Pretty Woman, by Vyasa, it suddenly struck me that the tale could have been set in any city in any one of the mahajanapadas or major nation states of ancient India. But by being set in Videha, the city of `Vaidehi Sita', Pingala's story is textured with ironic depth. Realizing the world of unstated significance in that location made me feel close to the subversive mind of that master storyteller who delighted in chiaroscuro, in playing with shades and contrasts. It was a personal Vyasa moment, as hundreds of thousands of people have had before me, and always will.
The supernatural may flit in and out of the events described here but after all, these stories are from the 'mysterious East'. Gods, yakshas, nagas and kinnaras stroll about as though they own the place, which in fact, they do. This is their conceptual home and they're not going anywhere that we can tell. Why, we would be bereft without them and the exciting interface that they vivify between the known and the unknown. You could call it 'magic realism', and be spot on.
If the stories in this book have a common thread it is their all too human component. They take me through some of the dilemmas and debates that beset our adventures as frail beings on the rocky road of life. Sometimes it's a misstep we take and sometimes the sky falls on our heads. These old stories are very much about the kind of responses possible to us in various tricky situations and to each other, which is why I find them so interesting, as I hope you will.
Contents and Sample Pages
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