Book Review – Ten Kings by Ashok Banker

Life has become busy for me, still trying to understand what it means to be a father and whether I’m geared for child-rearing, and somewhere in this process, I lost the habit of many dear activities such as reading books and blogging.

But when I saw Ashok Banker’s latest book in the Pune airport one day, I just had to buy it on impulse. After all, I’m an old fan.

And I’m so glad that I bought the book. Because the book was so good that it kicked me back into the reading books habit which I’m enjoying (the old adage is true – you make time for the things you love).

Ten Kings

The story in the book is set in 3400 B.C.E. about a Bharata king called Sudas who looked after the Trtsu kingdom, how he gets attacked by ten kings (the “dasarajna”) and whether or not he overcomes this Thermopylae-type situation.

The first half of the book is deep into character-sketching which was actually the highlight for me. I’ve long been fascinated about finding or writing a jedi-like guidebook from the angle of Hinduism. Philosophy is useful although it is “cool” these days to dismiss it. There have been glimpses of good articles such as Mahabharata and its Spiritual Symbolism and What Today’s Youth can Learn from Upanishads but they are so devoid of any reasonable depth that they become hollow articles. No, that’s the topic for a book. And for me, Ten Kings was that book. This book describes an ideal way of thinking about life, nature, mankind and harmony, all the in the process of etching the Sudas character. How delighted I was!

Somewhat related, one of my all-time favorite books is Stephen Covey’s First Things First which describes that “To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy” are the four basic needs of every human being. You could potentially relate it to our ancient teachings about the 4 aims of life – artha, kama, dharma and moksha, i.e. “to know everything that can be known, to be happy always, to be all powerful, to live forever”. A story for young adults that links our ancient Indian teachings to modern ideas would be something amazing for me to read (somewhat like the 7 chakras in The Last Airbender).

Back to topic – the second half of the book is best phrased by these lines:

In any case, it would all be over soon. Slain by the swords of ordinary kshatriyas or by the blades of kings, either way he would die on this kusa field today.

But not just yet.

He still had one thing on his side, perhaps the only thing in his favour on this hopeless day.

Strategy.

The last chapter ties together neatly the philosophy of the Trtsu kings, although the ending itself was a bit too abrupt for my liking.

What is exciting for me is that the last page leads to what will be the next book in the series – “Harappa”. I’m eagerly waiting for that!