The See Listen Read Better Podcast Episode 2 – Rest, Cal Newport and The Vault of Vishnu

Running, TV journalism and Rest The See Listen Read (SLR) Better Podcast

  1. See – Matt D’Avella – The Most Overlooked Way to be More Productive
  2. Listen – Cal Newport on the Rich Roll Podcast
  3. Ashwin Sanghi – The Vault of Vishnu (2020)

The Vault of Vishnu (2020)

I had purchased all Ashwin Sanghi books up to Sialkot Saga as and when they came. I purchased The Vault of Vishnu on pre-order. When the book came I realised that Sanghi had written more books in the interim that I had missed.

Book Cover – The Vault of Vishnu by Ashwin Sanghi

During this time, I was trying new techniques of reading multiple books at the same time. In mid-May this year, I realized I could not read like this. I also found that I could not read the next book until I broke the log jam by writing a review about it on my blog. In fact, this log jam affected everything else in my life as well. Hence, I am writing this now to break the log jam so I can go on to my next book.

I always liked how Sanghi wrote his book from multiple stories that coalesce some where in time. I particularly liked the leisurely pace at which the book started. I kept switching between books until I wrote the review for the 7 Brief Lessons in Physics and then I finished the book in one sitting. Now, you might understand why the second paragraph of this review was essential.

The book neatly merges facts and fiction. For all the facts, Sanghi has a nice appendix with all the reading he did to research for the book. It merges timelines across time and space. It merges spies and history. I like how his writing style has improved so much since the Rozabal Line.

Official trailer of The Vault of Vishnu by Ashwin Sanghi

When I read the title, The Vault of Vishnu, my Malayali mind immediately leapt to the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvanantapuram and the hidden vaults under the temple. That is why I ordered the book. Turns out the referenced temple is the Chidambaram Temple in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.

Sanghi begins his novel with the events that happened at Doklam in 2017 between India and China. Given the situation at the border now, the novel may be relatable? Then the story moves between India and China and across centuries. Even in the novel, we are dependent on help from the Americans for intelligence. There is reference to limitation of RISAT-2 which keeps an eye on India’s borders with China and Pakistan. There are references to our glorious past – especially the Cholas, Indian contributions to Kungfu and Shaolin and Bodhidharma (no Indo-Chinese fiction book is complete without him).

The story line of the Chinese monk travelling to get to India is a little slow through the book and adding a map to understand the path he took would have been a great add.

For me, the book reemphasizes our open borders between India, China, Persia and Central Asia. Knowledge, legends and myths have traveled on these roads for centuries and the modern nation-state has sought to destroy these ancient connections. I think we are poorer as a result.

From the books page on his website, I realised that he has published many more books than I anticipated. I am yet to read The Keepers of the Kalachakra in his Bharat Series, all books in his Private Series and some of his later books on his 13 Steps series. I had read 13 Steps book on wealth and luck.

Chanakya’s Chant

Just last October, I purchased and reviewed Ashwin Sanghi’s first book, The Rozabal Line. When his latest book came out, I wanted to purchase his book but had a huge back log of books to read. Hence, I held off. In the meanwhile, I signed up for BlogAdda’s Book Review Programme as well. Sanghi’s book Chanakya’s Chant (Amazon Affiliate Link) came up whilst I was in the last few pages of How Starbucks Saved My Life.

I really enjoyed reading Sanghi’s latest offering. The book has a nice balance of historical facts and fiction. It weaves these in magnificent ways to bring out the political realities of today and the life of Chanakya, 2300 years ago. The repetition of Chanakya’s chant throughout the book gets a bit weary as one reaches in the middle, but after all it is the title of the book, and one learns to skip that part when it comes. Keeping the explanation of the chant towards the end of the book was a nice touch. Overall, I really enjoyed reading the book and I have already recommended it to someone who is reading the book now. 🙂

As I have said before, the book is an inter-weaving story between the present and a time 2300 years ago. The storyline follows the rise of Chandini Gupta to the position of power in New Delhi and Chandragupta Maurya to the position of power in Pataliputra in Magadha in an India 2300 years ago. Their rise is backed by the two ‘godfathers’, Pandit Gangasagar Mishra for Chandini and Chanakya for Chandragupta.

It is towards the middle of the book that the link between how the story was progressing in the present and 2300 years ago becomes clearer. Both proteges almost have similar names – Chandini Gupta and Chandra Gupta. The story moves slowly to the centers of power, New Delhi in modern India and Pataliputra in the India from 2300 years ago. The involvement of Pakistanand China for political gains within India parallels the help taken from the fictional kingdoms of Gandhar and Kaikey which share the geographical location by Chanakya. There was nice symmetry in the stories as well. Having a man achieve power in India 2300 years ago and a woman do the same in modern India.

The storyline is filled with political tactics employed by the godfather of the protege. I am not sure many of the tactics would work in the modern world. I am also not sure if many of the suggestions suggested or used to solve modern problems are practical. It was a nice instrument to offer suggestions in governance. The book also points to the idea of being okay with a little corruption for political gains while ensuring the work gets done mindset that several people in India have. I was a little uncomfortable with that suggestion. I understand that the idea was not to portray a clean Prime Minister but rather paint a more realistic picture of the position of Prime Minister.

I think the book is well timed, fast and inspiring read. At the back cover, the book asks a question, does Chanakya’s chant succeed in modern day India? I think that is for every reader to answer for himself.