Let me take you through this very interesting book written by famous author Ashwin Sanghi some time back. The name of the book is ‘The Rozabal Line’ an engrossing novel of some three hundred and fifty pages.
It is a thriller fiction by Ashwin Sanghi, written under the pseudonym Shawn Haigins. The book was originally published in 2007. A revised edition of which was also published by Westland Ltd & Tranquebar Press in 2008 under the author’s own name. I’m purposefully bringing this book to you so late because it is a very well researched fiction novel that can live through times. Most certainly It has a long shelf life for it’ll keep resurrecting itself at appropriate intervals. But before I take you through my comments as a reader let me first take you through the plot of this masterpiece.
Let me first begin by asking did Jesus survive his execution? Well, the novel does deal with the story of Jesus having survived the crucifixion and later his settling in India. The fictional spark of the novel I suppose comes in the same rhythm as Dan Brown’s—’The Da Vinci Code.’ I brooded over the book for some time before deciding to read it again. The title of the book draws its name from the Rozabal Shrine in Srinagar, located in Kashmir. Some cynosures such as Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is said to have been the first person who claimed in 1899, that Rozabal was the burial place of Jesus of Nazareth. The historical basis of the novel is derived from several other books on the subject including ‘Jesus Lived in India’ by Holger Kersten and ‘The Unknown Life of Jesus’ by Nicolas Notovich.
A cardboard box is found on a shelf in a London library. When the bewildered librarian opens it. She screams before she falls unconscious on the floor. Within the winding recesses of the Vatican, a beautiful assassin of Asian origin by the name of Swakilki swears she will eliminate all who do not believe in her twisted credo.
A deadly elite army of thirteen calling itself the Lashkar-e-Talatashar is scattered around the globe. The fate of its members curiously resembles that of Christ and his Apostles. Their agenda is clearly Armageddon.
The forces of Islam and the forces of Christianity are positioning themselves for the greatest conflict ever. At the end of this conflict, they will both destroy themselves. And then will rise the New World Order—the power of the Illuminati.
A Hindu astrologer Pandit Ram Gopal Sharma spots the approaching configuration of the stars and nods to himself at the grim realization of the end of the world. In Tibet, a group of Buddhist monks search for reincarnation, much in the way their ancestors searched Judea for the Son of God. In the strife-torn Kashmir, a tomb called Rozabal holds the key to a riddle that arises in Jerusalem and gets answered at Vaishno Devi. The plot insinuates Hinduism could be the mother of all religions being the one of the oldest. It dwells on the holy triad. The configuration of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and Kali Lakshmi and Saraswati.
An American priest, Father Vincent Sinclair has disturbing visions of people familiar to him, except that they seem to exist in other ages. Induced into past-life regressions, he moves to India to piece together the violent images. Shadowing his every move is the Crux Decussata Permuta, a clandestine secret society that would rather wipe out entire creation than allow an ancient secret from being disclosed.
The Rozabal Line is a thriller spanning between continents and centuries, with Ashwin Sanghi, under the pseudonym Shawn Haigins, telling a story that goes back to the time of the birth of the Abrahamic religions. Let us see what the peridocals had to say about this novel. According to Tehelka, one of India’s news magazines, “The Rozabal Line” is a thriller that enquires into the controversial claim that Jesus Christ travelled to India and is buried in Kashmir’s Rozabal Tomb”.
The Hindu, one of India’s National dailies, says that “The book deals in greater depth with the issue of Christ’s union with Mary Magdalene touched upon by The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown as well as incorporating postulates of several other books, including Jesus Lived in India: Life Before and After the Crucifixion by Holger Kersten and Jesus Died In Kashmir: Jesus, Moses and The Ten Lost Tribes Of Israel by Andreas Kaiser.” After the novel was published, due to attention drawn to the site by others as well as the story told in the book, there was a large upsurge of visitors to the Rozabal Shrine in Srinagar. (I have just returned from Srinagar).
At a talk delivered in Chennai, the author said, “We assume the different faiths are distinctly different, but once you start tracing back the roots of their beliefs, you find their origins are much closer than you might imagine.” Irrespective of the controversial theme surrounding his book, the author has continuously maintained that his book is a work of fiction and should be read as a fiction conspiracy thriller. In an interview with a leading tabloid, the author was asked: “Do you believe that Jesus lived in India?” and he replied, “I don’t think it’s in any way relevant if he came here or not. But do I wish it was true? Yes, completely. Isn’t that such a romantic notion?” MV Kamath, the leading commentator, has said that the book is “provocative, but certainly commanding attention.”
The ongoing controversial nature of the story surrounding the tomb, as promoted by various people such as those of the Ahmadiyya movement and as also explored in this book, resulted in the site being closed down to visitors, particularly after Lonely Planet—a travel guide book detailed the tomb.
Similarities to the November 2008 Mumbai attacks:
The Hindustan Times was the first to point out that Sanghi’s novel bore several similarities to the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. In particular, Sanghi’s novel spoke of an attack by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist terror group based in Pakistan controlled Kashmir. It also spoke of the Lashkar spinning off an ultra-elite group of twelve commandos, similar to the Deccan Mujahideen. The plot of The Rozabal Line used a ship off the coast of Gujarat as well as a Thuraya satellite phone besides describing the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower as the residence of one of the main characters in the story. Sanghi also described the group as being controlled by the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan without the knowledge of the Pakistani president. All these elements were purportedly present in the November 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks. Consequently, The Hindu, included The Rozabal Line among its top fiction picks while The Telegraph included The Rozabal Line among its top “Paperback Pickings”.
The author has clarified in a subsequent interview that he was unhappy about the commonalities although he readily agrees to being called a “conspiracy theorist”.
Friends, what is more fun, reading the book after knowing the story or reading it first to know the story? You decide. My observations on the narration are as follows:
The plot of this novel is derived out of an extremely ancient event or happening that affected the entire world over. The author therefore takes you around the world. His imagination is no less than Dan Brown. There are but a few pages with limited sex to break the monotony of a theological thriller. And the sex is leisurely described in a very dignified manner considering the genre of the book. The author takes a rather long time taking you round and round the world before he lays down the plot. The book is initially slow. It takes its own sweet time to build up but that’s because of its complicated plot that takes a long time to brew. The plot is not established till almost page 81. The book quite munificently deals with previous births and regressions. The theological rigmarole of certain Indian states and cities such as Goa, J&K, Mumbai and some more have been covered in great detail. Many things are happening in this narration simultaneously so it’s a bit difficult for the reader to keep pace with. It’s a difficult plot and requires some concentrated reading and is in no way a light book. There are too many characters so its difficult to remember their names. It’s not some linear narration instead it goes around the world in small paragraphs and sub-chapters. The book in fact is an assimilation of small sub-tiles finally bound into a story and thick spine. It appears the author has made some deep commendable study before embarking on the mission to write it. It’s a taxing novel dealing in religion and therefore provocative, but one must take it as a fiction. It’s got some great hypnotizing scenes as well that only helps in building the overall plot.
The narration is through small chapters. It’s a complicated novel. Ghalib is one of the main characters. The book certainly takes you on a world tour. Did Jesus take Samadhi? Was Jesus revived the book runs all over? It’s an old history intertwined into fiction. The book destroys the fundamental belief that Jesus died on the cross. The research has been fictionalized quite subtly. The uniqueness of the book is that you are never in the thick and thin of the story as it keeps changing. One wonders at times where did Ashwin get the details from? Though the book is titled ‘The Rozabal Line’ yet the word Rozabal is used for the first time on page 210 more than halfway down and that explains why the suspense of the plot is so deadly. The book doesn’t give you a feel as if you’re reading a novel on the contrary it makes you feel as if you’re reading some live pieces or columns. It’s a very confusing novel with a plethora of names. You will keep changing your opinion about the narration as you go along the book. The book has a engrossing plot. Small pieces of writing knit the elaborate narration. There are many sessions on resurrections. The main plot of the book is constructed on so many fragments that one gets lost in its detailing. The book connects you with all major religions of the world. The plot has a long build-up. From where to where even the Nagas of India are there. Read it with full concentration to enjoy the book otherwise, you’re wasting time. The author summarises the novel towards the end for the convenience of the readers. I would give the novel eight out of ten.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE
(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai; Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida; India. Shoolini University, Yogananda Knowledge Center, Himachal Pradesh and Azim Premzi University, Bangalore).
ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY
(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi; Available for reading in Indian National Bibliography, March 2016, in the literature section, in Central Reference Library, Ministry of Culture, India, Belvedere, Kolkata-700022)
AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES
(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K; Herrick District Library, Holland and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, USA).
REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD
(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)
TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN
(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
RHYTHM … in poems
(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)
Short stories, Book reviews and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: Reality and Perception, 15.10.19; Sending the Wrong Message, 31.5.20; Eagle versus Scholars June, 15 & 20 2020; Indica, 15.8.20; The Story of King Chitraketu, August 31 2020; Breaking Through the Chakravyuh, September 30 2020. The Questioning Spouse, October 31, 2020; Happy Days, November 15, 2020; The Karma Cycle of Paddy and Wheat, December 15,2020; Power Vs Influence, January 31, 2021; Three Refugees, March 15, 2021; Rise and Fall of Ajatashatru, March 31, 2021; Reformed Ruler, May 15, 2021; A Lasting Name, May 31, 2021; Are Animals Better Teachers?, June 16, 2021; Book Review: The Gram Swaraj, 1.7.21; Right Age for Achievements, 15.7.21; Big Things Have Small Beginnings, 15.8.21; Where is Gangaridai?, 15.9.21; Confront the Donkey Within You 30.9.21; Know Your Strengths 15.10.21; Poverty 15.11.21; Top View 30.11.21; The Bansuriwala 15.1.22; Sale of Alaska 15.2.22; The Dimasa Kingdom 28.2.22;
(ALL THE ABOVE BOOK TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)