Author: Tomichan Matheikal
Link for purchase: Black Hole
Price: Rs 99
Ishan Salman Panicker’s father is a Malayali Hindu and mother a Catholic tribal woman from Shillong. His maternal grandfather is a Muslim from Bangladesh. Father Joseph Kunnel prophesies a dark future for Ishan. Ishan escapes from the priest and his prophecies and arrives in Delhi with his wife Jenny. Delhi turns out to be a twirling black hole which drives Ishan to write his own gospel.
This novel is, short as it is, a complex work that probes the inevitable mystique and horror of life. The plot spans a whole century. Saints and sinners, Gandhi and Godse, Jesus and Krishna, and a whole range of ordinary people come together to continue the evolution of a 14-billion-year-old black hole.
Tomichan Matheikal is an intellectual to the core. The language used in this book is scholarly as befits a person who has taught English in a college as well as a school. The book is predominantly the story of an Ashram and a school. The part I liked best was the beautiful manner in which Tom brings out people’s greed and avarice. The way people manage to deftly manipulate the workings of the school and the Ashram to their advantage is described adeptly. The ashram is started by a man who is disillusioned with life and part of how it finally becomes an Ashram is accidental. The Ashram is initially a coveted place for all those people who are seeking solace from the trials and tribulations of life. Slowly and steadily it passes into the hands of corrupt people who are in it just for the benefits it accords.
Money is siphoned off from the funds that accrue in the form of donations. Tomichan Matheikal brings out the petty politics that is part of a school’s everyday working with aplomb. I was intrigued by the name of the protagonist which is Ishaan Salman Panicker. I thought it was a wonderful name that signifies a beautiful confluence of religions. The teachers in the school are extremely colourful characters. Same can be said about the people who run the ashram, be it the highly intelligent and academically gifted Sitaram Rana or the corrupt Mahendra Rana. The fate of the school hangs in balance when it exchanges hands and becomes a part of the Ashram.
I initially wondered about what could be the relationship between a Black Hole and the story, but it is clearly explained in the book and I don’t want to spoil the fun for potential readers by revealing it here.
There are some negatives in the book too. I felt there were a shade too many characters to keep track of in a short book like this. This leads to some confusion in the mind of the reader. The book is a quick but a slightly tough read. The language as I already said is wonderful and masterly and it requires a reasonably good vocabulary to enjoy the book. But as I said Tomichan Matheikal is a scholar in English.
Conclusion: A big yay! This book is for those people who are serious readers and who do not mind a slightly tough read.
Rating: I am going with 4/5 for Tomichan Matheikal’s Black Hole. I have cut off one point because the book can be slightly confusing at certain places.