Book review: Biswajit Jha’s Modern Buddha is a gripping story of transformation in Bhutan

Biswajit Jha has realistically captured the prevalent education system of India, the still existing middle-class expectations of parents from a brilliant child, the pressure on the child to compromise his dreams, to bear the burden of their unfulfilled desires, and the latent desire to live a life they dreamt of.

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Book Review: Modern Buddha

Biswajit Jha’s completion of the second book within a time frame of two and a half years is a marvel indeed considering his huge commitment in many spheres of life that includes work, writing, philanthropic projects, spiritual quests, family, and social commitments.

His debut novel Bike Ambulance Dada, published by Penguin Random House, was a triumph and it made the author a familiar name in the reader’s circle. It chronicles the life of Karimul Hak, who saved innumerable lives in the remote village of the Himalayan foothills by ferrying people on his bike to nearby hospitals through dense forests and wilderness which turns into a gripping saga of selfless service, compassion, and altruism.

The story of such a true hero would have been doomed to oblivion had Biswajit Jha not taken the onus on himself to be the raconteur of that story. And today it adorns the bookshelves of many libraries and is currently being turned into a biopic.

Modern Buddha: An Incredible Journey of Transformation is Biswajit Jha’s new novel and it wafts the freshness of Bhutan’s terrains and the serene sublimity of Buddha with a modern affirmation. This fiction is the journey of a modern man through the complexities of life that include his difficult moments and crises.

There are some genuinely moving passages that not only encompass the largeness of life but embrace the entirety of human flaws too. Thus, the novel has some epic qualities with a craving to rise and reach the final nirvana of Siddhartha.

Biswajit Jha has realistically captured the prevalent education system of India, the still existing middle-class expectations of parents from a brilliant child, the pressure on the child to compromise his dreams, to bear the burden of their unfulfilled desires, and the latent desire to live a life they dreamt of.

Siddhartha was passionate about football and perhaps he might have become a star if destiny had nurtured his innate talent. Alas! He had to live by the rule book of his parents and forget his dream and passion of becoming a footballer… and start believing that happiness was in what his parents had thought was the best for him. 

Happiness was in acquiring those set goals, cracking those socially reputed exams, which is a billion-dollar education business, and getting hefty paychecks…and then slipping into the final disillusionment! It is a wonderful depiction and eye-opener for the entire generation. It leaves us asking many philosophical questions like “What is happiness?” and “What is the purpose of life?”

Love, family, loneliness, and the quest of a man who is in search of his true purpose is portrayed poignantly in this novel. Life is not a destination, not a summation of achievements or performance in a particular examination; life is a journey, life is about values, acceptance, failures, experiences, friendships, encounters, giving in, giving up, surrendering, learning, loving profoundly and above all experiencing and living to the fullest each day, each moment.

The characters in the story slowly evolve, as they transit through the different stages in their life; they appear familiar, as if we know them, and we tend to miss them dearly towards the end. Their loss becomes our loss, thus intensifying the reader’s involvement.

Each character has its own take – the father, the mother, Sushmita, none are wrong. Their perspectives might have been different if Siddhartha had a little more control over his wrath and kept his mind stable, and his headstrong. Then his love life, his family, and his circle of friends would all be his.

But who can evade destiny? We keep wondering as we turn the pages “Are we truly a puppet in the hands of destiny? Can we alter our tragic flaws ‘hamartia’?” But at last, his desire to unlearn, his journey to Bhutan, his answer to his inner calling, and his final anagnorisis raises him to the level of a tragic hero, and there lies his catharsis and redemption.

He is finally able to let go, come to terms with the real, and even wish all well for Sushmita, without any expectations of her return. We all at some point in our life make mistakes, are bullied, and even submerged by circumstances. We know not how we will evolve in our situations! It is only time that will determine how we are finally placed in our life. Situations, circumstances, and people around us, all, have their roles to play in our formation. They might not be knowing how they are contributing to us. Their encouraging words, their snide remarks, their disregard, their success, and their failures- everything!

We are social beings, and as Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens has put it. “A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship. Whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.” Siddhartha’s life and his so-called success as defined by society had taken away his sense of purpose from him. He was sinking into a mayhem of gluttony, committing sin after sin, shrinking, and in that self-invited darkness he was so blinded that he even drove away his love Sushmita.

“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” said Friedrich Nietzche. And Siddhartha does emerge from the pit where he had fallen!

Biswajit Jha has been able to keep his readers gripped to the end…the personal sojourn of Siddhartha, is marked with encounters with Sushmita, Mr and Mrs Chatterjee, Ratihinda, Subhash, Himanshu, Amit, Sourav, Sushanta, Ganesh, Lhato Jamba, Lhendup Dorjee, Pema… and all enliven the story as the story keeps shifting from the small town at the foothills of Himalayas to Delhi to the beautiful picturesque Bhutan through the beautiful Assam valleys.

The description of the contours is breath-taking, the flora and fauna, the music of nature, the colours, the fragrances of nature, and the continuous quest make it a saga worth reading and I wish every reader would feel the experience enriching, and when in the pensive mood they may lie on a couch and recite :

“In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude.”

About the book

Modern Buddha: An Incredible Journey of Transformation

Publisher: Sterling

Page: 280

Price: Rs 300

Book available on Amazon

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First published on: 26-05-2023 at 01:20 IST