A staunch atheist accustomed to reading, and often agreeing with, the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Chris Hitchens, The Aum Of All Things by Ruzbeh N Bharucha was not a book I would have picked on my own. So let’s just say it ‘happened to me’, pretty much in the same sense that many of life’s events seem to happen without an inkling of anticipation.
Yet its conversational candour didn’t let me put it away as I started reading it. In fact, I realised I had a perverse appreciation for all that theobabble, as my mind wandered about the distant corners of the known unknown, and wondered about meaning of incomprehensible things like life, spirits and consciousness. Yes, even an atheist mind, more often than others, ponders on such esoteric questions, particularly one that’s not a reckless believer in the civilising mission of science and technology.
While several self-proclaimed spiritual writers — Robin The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari Sharma, Paulo The Alchemist Coelho, among others — have narrated personal journeys through the terrain of the supernatural, the godly, the inexplicable but intimate experience of encountering a cosmic force, Bharucha’s quest has a timbre of an innocent, wide-eyed wonder, which gives it an air of non-artificiality. The author of The Fakir Trilogy and The Last Marathon in his latest book recounts his rendezvous with Bapuji, a ‘sage’ living in Delhi, who gives him wisdom of simplicity and oneness.
Conversations with the learned man also take Bharucha through the usual suspects of creation, soul, life after death and comprehending karma.
Bharucha asks him questions about basic well being, living life meaningfully, without blindly running after ‘material attachments.’ (A tad ironical, given the number of times his earlier books being ‘bestsellers’ has been drummed into the readers’ ears.)
However, Aum can be diagnosed with the same problem that plagues many of the pop philosophers of the day, the wannabe Deepak Chopras of tomorrow. There is not even an attempt to engage with religions as they actually exist and are practiced in India, or across the world.
This is feelgood spirituality to say the least, generously sprinkled with ‘all is well’ kind of a divine message, though the god figure is always referred to as a ‘He’ — slightly politically incorrect in the present times. In sum, Bharucha is to spiritual fiction what Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi are to literary fiction. Just take him in the right spirit!