Life and Manners of a Bygone Age in Literary Imagination: The Call of the Citadel

        Book Review by Sanjeev Gandhi

Title: The Call of the Citadel
Subtitle: First Chapter in the History of Indian Subcontinent

Authors: Vikram Singh Deol & Parneet Jaggi
Publisher: Authors Press, India
Genre: Historical Fiction
Language: English
ISBN: 978-93-89824-41-4
Pages:  179

Price: ₹  230.00 INR 

Parneet Jaggi
E.A. Baker rightly says, “To present and interpret facts is the historian’s business; to summon up a past epoch, to show man and women alive in it and behaving as they must have behaved in the circumstances, is the labour and joy of the genuine historical novelist.” Vikram Singh Deol and Parneet Jaggi have surely felt that joy while trying their hands on this novel based on the hypothetical theories of the history of the Indian Continent. Like any historical work, this novel is also neither pure history, nor complete fiction. If the element of fiction  dominates, it ceases to be history and if history is stressed upon, fiction suffers.

Vikram and Parneet, endowed with a fecund imagination, try to recreate the past and instil life in the dry bones of history. They have swept back into the past flushing the stones of history with colour and brightness and tried to construct the past as warm, breathing, excitedly alive.

Vikram Singh Deol
The novel is based on the interpretation of Rig Veda hymns about the great war of the Aryans and the theory given by Mortimer Wheeler on the collapse of Indus Valley Civilization after the Aryan invasion. However, the novelists have skilfully changed the names of the cities as Mohan-toh-Daro and Haripriya and mythical characters as Indro, Vareneous etc. to avoid unnecessary controversies.

The two different civilizations are on the verge of conflict as the novel begins. Both civilizations are not familiar with each other’s cultures and lifestyles. They have some advantages over each other. At the onset, the people of Mohan-toh –Daro are perplexed at the brutal murders of their three citizens. The investigation starts at the bidding of leader Kalika Das by the prominent persons like Peter Das, Bhooto Das and others. At the same time, Indro, the leader of the other race is at the threshold of the city in search of new settlements. The people of Mohan-toh-Daro are complacent with their ways of living and splendour, they are civilised and cultured people. They have skilled artisans, weavers and jewellers. The invaders are adorned with valour and lust for power and pelf.  They are better cattle-men but do not possess farming skills. They are proficient in warfare. The clash is imminent.

Sanjeev Gandhi
Battles do not end, O Indro! Men never stop. It isn’t always enough. This may be a respite, but this will only be a respite. The coming generation would not know of this hardship. They’ll not feel the pain or glory. They’ll fight again, may be for power, may be for land, may be for women. Their desires will grow with time. There’s possibly no end to desire and ambition. If not power, land or women, may be for gold or just to prove themselves superior by whatever means.

Two parallel plots run in thirteen chapters. Invaders, under the leadership of Indro, make strategies with the guidance of their wise men Vasistha and Vishwamitra, to conquer the city dwellers, distribute the bounties among themselves and get settled in the vast, fertile, irrigated plains. On the other hand, people of Mohan-toh-Daro get together to plan their defence under the leadership of Kalika Das. The rituals of different civilizations are vividly portrayed.

This novel is written by a historian and a litterateur. Minute details have been perfectly worked out. The character of Sundari is perhaps inspired by the bronze statuette, dubbed as "Dancing Girl", found in excavations, now placed at National Museum, New Delhi. The love story of Peter Das and Devika has not been exploited though there is a scope for it.

The language of the novel is lucid and poetic. Devika is described as: “The fairly chiselled features of Devika carried the crimson colour of flame” and in describing nature, the language becomes more poetic as: “The orange light, it seems, was feeding on the rain drops. It was getting brighter; dancing in harmony with the wind, simply swaying towards the direction the winds wanted it to.” Sentences flow on with an immaculate rhythm as well as consistent pace.

      Rain is continuous in the background throughout the novel and reminds us of Farewell to Arms but cannot be interpreted as a symbol of sorrow as in Hemingway’s novel. It is suggestive of origination because the amalgamation of two civilizations is going to take place. It is also used as symbol of realism, having a specific emotional purpose. The change in behaviour of water is depicted through indirect and unpredictable incidents like the crocodile pond etc. The novel touches upon a mysterious episode of Indian history, unlocking several windows to look through.

Today, we witness a decline in the production of historical novels. Many reasons have been contributing to the steep decline of this intriguing genre. The growing spirit of realism and intellectualism which is the basis of present materialistic life has turned the authors away from history. At such time, these two young novelists, like modern K. N. Dikshit and John Marshall, dig the Ancient Indian History to weave a lucid and convincing story, which is indubitably going to be helpful for students to get a creative, pictorial document of the bygone, forgotten age. The book-cover appeals with the imaginative setting of the locale and encounter of the races.  The novel is a path-breaking work of historical fiction attempting to decode the most clouded era of the history of the Indian subcontinent, 


Reviewer:

Dr. Sanjeev Gandhi is Associate Professor of English at Government College, Mustafabad, Haryana, India. He is a researcher, blogger and an avid reader. With a teaching experience of 23 years, he is the author of three books- Essentials of Communication, Personality Development  and The Tempest: A Critical Study.
Email: profsgandhi@gmail.com


Authors:

Vikram Singh Deol is Associate Professor and Head, Department of History at Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar Government College, Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, India. He is the author of the book Social and Economic Values in the Teachings of Sikh Gurus and the novel The Call of the Citadel. Email: vikramsinghdeol@gmail.com

Parneet Jaggi is Associate Professor of English at Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar Government College, Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, India. She is a bilingual poet, writing in English and Punjabi, novelist, editor and critic. She has four anthologies of poems- Beyond Words, Show me How Not to Grow, Live Love Light, Euphonies of Heart and Soul , a research book- Matthew Arnold and the Bhagavad Gita , has co-edited three anthologies of poems and articles and her recent fiction The Call of the Citadel has been widely acclaimed in literary circles. Her name appears in the Directory of Poets and Writers in America’s magazine Poets and Writers. She was adjudged the “Poet of the Year 2019” and “Critic of the Year 2019” by Destinypoets, Yorkshire, UK. She was awarded the honour of “Star Ambassador of World Poetry” by Philosophique Poetica and Grand Productions Canada, 2019. She won the Wingword Prize 2020 for her Punjabi poetry. She is currently Associate Editor (English) of the International Journal of Education and English Literature, Montreal, Canada.  Her poetry is widely read on social media platforms and has been published in anthologies and journals of repute including the Setu journal. 

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