Author speak: The Beckoning of Gyanganj by Chandan Pathak.

Of mystical lands, past lives and present truths
  • Ambica Gulati

Born in a country which has a longstanding mystical tradition and spiritual roots, it will be easy for most of us to relate to The Beckoning of Gyanganj. Chandan Pathak has touched upon many issues which trouble our soul and answers for this lie in our universal principle of life and death. Our quest for peace and love has led us to saints and places of worship. Born in Guwahati, Pathak worked in oilfields and now lives in Mumbai. His first book Footprints was a collection of short stories, published as blogs earlier.
An email conversation with the author revealed his thoughts on the current book and the plans for more. Excerpts:

How did you conceive the idea of this book?
Having travelled to the Himalayas number of times in search of elusive and illusive true-saints and at times even contemplating to retire to a cave there to meditate to attain spiritual knowledge, there was a phase of my life when I struggled with the materialistic and spiritual influences with lots of challenges. I had read about Gyanganj or Siddhashram (also known as Shangri-La or Shambhala in Tibetan Buddhism) in several spiritual books and became curios about this sacred and mystical place. There have been many instances in the past when chosen rishis have claimed to visit this holy place and shared their amazing experiences. Gyanganj is truly a mysterious and heavenly place based on all these accounts. In fact, during my various wandering stints in the Himalayas, I always nourish a secret desire of being teleported to this magical land to get a glimpse of it.
Then, in my younger days I was highly fascinated by the story of a beautiful princess falling in love with a common man and the common man’s heroics to win her. There were other stories of ruthless kings or princes exploiting their subjects, torturing and at times mercilessly killing them which had left deep imprint in my mind. All these inspired me to write a story and The Beckoning of Gyanganj was born.

There have been many books written on the mystical saints of the Himalayas. What has been your inspiration?
The main inspiration for me to write this novel came from Gyanganj as I have explained earlier. However, this story is not about the life of a saint only; though one of the important characters is Swami Raghunath.
The Beckoning of Gyanganj is the story of Ravi Deka, the protagonist who is an avid trekker and is madly in love with the Himalayas. Risha, the beautiful Punjabi girl from New Delhi is the girl in his life. During one of the treks, his group encounters a dangerous blizzard in a very remote part of the mountain and Ravi gets separated from the rest. A series of unnatural events take him to a strange but stunningly beautiful place hidden in the lap of the Himalayas in some different dimensions which he subsequently learnt to be Gyanganj. There Ravi gets vision of some unknown but very sad and painful events dating back to several hundred years. These experiences change Ravi’s life forever.
The story is a cocktail of love, romance, spirituality, politics, hatred and a bloody battle spreading over two eras which were 500 years apart. Effect of karma is the driving force of the story. It follows the main characters from one life to another, making them go through challenges and difficulties to discharge their karmic debt and encourages soul evolvement in each birth.
There is also an important angle to the entire story and that is of the influence of Gyanganj and the immortal sages residing there. Located in the remote Himalayas, this is a divine place with the highest level of spirituality practiced by the inhabitants.

Do you follow any spiritual path yourself?
My late maternal grand-uncle had initiated me in my childhood, into the pure and fascinating world of spirituality and had fired up my imagination by narrating his experiences of spiritual pursuits in the form of beautiful stories. As I grew up, this curiosity sustained and made me spiritually inclined. I read stories about many saints and sages and read lots of books over the years penned by various philosophers and spiritual gurus. However, for now I have stopped reading these as I am disillusioned with the contradictions in the teachings and philosophies propounded by these different teachers. I have also met several spiritual gurus of our time to hear their preaching. However, I feel that the best way to develop proper understanding of spirituality is through self-analysis and realization. So, I don’t follow a specific spiritual path but I am exploring on my own. Let’s see where the journey takes me.

There is a lot of past life therapy, dealing with emotional issues in a spiritual manner, have you also had these kind of issues personally?
Pain and emotional sufferings are integral part of life for any person. So, I am no different in this aspect, having gone through some very difficult and challenging phases in my life. In these testing times, our self-confidence takes a battering and at times gets ground to dust. In these moments of weakness, when we are not left with any energy to face the challenges thrown by Life, we look for help from supporting systems like astrology, numerology, palmistry, past life therapy.
Incidentally, I am a certified hypnotherapist and had experimented with it for several years, including past life regression. This gave me some very interesting insights in to life, purpose of soul journey life after life, how karma binds us in soul journeys. But I sincerely believe that as regard to solving problems of life, the best way to handle is to strengthen own resolve, shore up self-confidence and develop never-say-die attitude. Without this, chance of success is not very high.   

What is the message that the book holds?
In today’s cut-throat, competitive and materialistic world, life is like a very brittle and weak tree unless it is on a strong foundation, deeply rooted and strengthened by spiritual values. As the reader journeys through the story, merging with the characters from two timelines, he will notice pearls of wisdoms scattered on the road side, sprayed liberally by the wise sages of Gyanganj. These are to be understood, accepted and absorbed.
Effect of karma follows the characters from one life to another. So it is good to believe in karmic debts as it helps us be on the right path and contribute towards building a better world.
Lastly, the entire proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards charity work through Udaan Charitable Trust. It is just a small initiative to partner with the readers to contribute towards a social cause, that is rural education. I hope this will give some satisfaction to both the sides of doing something meaningful by engaging with this book.

What is the future plan?
Currently I am writing a love story in the backdrop of 1980s. This is loosely based on a real life account. I shall be very curious to see the reaction of the readers from the young generation as to how they would relate to a romantic relationship which existed at a time when there was no mobile phone, no sms, no internet, email or WhatsApp.
I also intend to write a small book on self-help with the hope that it will provide some help to the readers to tackle various issues in their lives. At some point of time, I shall definitely write a sequel to The Beckoning of Gyanganj to bring the story to a logical end. Then, another desire is to re-write the stories of my first book ‘Footprints’ with better finishing and re-present to the readers.
Beyond these, I wish to take things as they come. However, my sole purpose of writing is to share my thoughts, ideas and stories with meaningful content and messages without compromising for commercial gains. In the process I wish to hone my writing skills and enrich my literary knowledge.

Book details
Price: Rs 175
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing
Pages: 209


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