By Saket Suman
New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) She worked as a journalist for Asian Age, Frontline and Tribune, but running behind bylines always seemed like “instant coffee” with no time to pause and appreciate the beauty of things around her. After she quit her full-time job and embarked on a journey of writing, life changed drastically for Charu Singh, whose second book was published in December.
“I wrote a lot of poetry as a young child and also continued with it in my teenage. And then I became a journalist, which, to a large extent, taught me the discipline of writing. But working as a journalist was like instant coffee; one was always looking for bylines and breaking news. I always had this thing in the back of my mind that I want to write something some day.
“Now, when I look back at the journey of writing, it has been much more satisfying. It is self-discovery of sorts, because you are finding new facets about yourself every other day,” Singh told IANS.
Singh’s first book, “Path of the Swan”, is part of a Buddhist fantasy series that she spent quite a lot of time writing. In December 2017, “The Golden Dakini”, the second book in the series, released and was widely lauded in literary circles.
In these books, Singh said, she has used elements of “Tibetan Buddhism”, especially myths centred around “the Vajrayana system of Buddhism”, which is a part of the larger Mahayana body of Buddhism.
“I have especially used the myth centred around the legendary kingdom of Shambala which is particular to Vajrayana Buddhism and is the subject of much debate and thought among monks and lay practitioners of this arm of Buddhism. In this Buddhist fantasy series I have finished the story with “The Golden Dakini”; so currently the Maitreya chronicles is a set of two books. However, there is the possibility of me doing a third book centred around the Maitreya,” she added.
Singh is not a practising Buddhist and, therefore, her exploration of Buddhism has a lot more significance for both the reader and the writer. Readers, for instance, come across sweeping landscapes in the Northeast and Leh, where majestic monasteries paint the pages of her book. The stories are not told from the perspective of a Buddhist, but from somebody who has attempted to understand the religion and then weave a fictional narrative around it.
For the writer in Singh, it has been a great experience. “The journey of my research and me simply going about learning little nuggets of Buddhism has been a fascinating experience. It opened new windows and horizons for me personally,” she quipped.
“The Golden Dakini” centres around action building up to the birth of the divine child, the Maitreya Buddha. The book begins at Qiang La, and a group of five characters travel across Tibet and make their way to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. They stay there for about a week and have meetings with Rimpoche Gyaltsen, who hints at the location of Mt Meru — a mystical, divine mountain mentioned in both Buddhist and Hindu legends.
The task before the group is to locate Mt Meru, which has long been lost from the public eye. As the group follows the trail of clues leading to the mountain, they reach Guwahati in Assam where they reside for some time and look for a Hindu sage who can tell them the path ahead.
A book set in exotic locations, “The Golden Dakini” is both a page-turner and a celebration of the many sublime aspects of Buddhism.
(Saket Suman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)