Sequel to his 2016 book, Saraswati’s Intelligence: The Kishkindha Chronicles, Vamsee Juluri’s The Firekeepers of Jwalapuram: Book 2 of The Kishkindha Chronicles begins with Hanuman and his people defeating those who were posing a threat to destroy the country. However, things are far from being over. In his new book, the ancient world serves as a subtext to the world we are residing in. The questions asked by the characters and in turn him do not lose their relevance with the passage of time. Instead, they seem even more pointed now.
Surya’s beloved gurukula, with the sun temple and the elemental shrines, was gone. Whatever had happened that morning was not an ordinary event. The volcano in the eastern sea had set off a chain of explosions and earthquakes everywhere.
A red haze and ash hovered over the rubble-strewn yard between the hills as a reminder that it was not entirely over.
‘Smells like the whole world is doing a giant yagna,’ Vaishnavi said quietly, ‘only, it isn’t.’ Hanuman exhaled slowly and allowed himself to lean on the slab where Vaishnavi was sitting, above the debris of what had once been the elemental shrines. Below them, in the distance, Surya’s disciples ran around frantically, trying to retrieve sacred stones, crystals, dried coconuts anointed with markings, and whatever else they could salvage. In a corner, a lean-to of banana leaves had been assembled.
A group of disciplines huddled together and attended to those who had been injured. ‘Will it hold now, Vaishnavi?’ Hanuman asked, gazing at the medical tent. His eyes seemed fixed not so much on the small shelter as the whole future of Kishkindha and its descendants. ‘Parama dharma?’ Vaishnavi asked, her voice suddenly less exhausted. Her balance turned slightly, and her face became alert.
‘But, of co—’ she began, then stopped. ‘It depends,’ she said softly. ‘Acharya Surya has obviously suspended all the apachara
concerns for now. It is a time of aapada, after all, and he always used to say parama dharma is not about pain but
reducing it. If a rule prevents pain, it is good. If it adds to one’s pain, then it’s not.’ Hanuman quietly started adjusting the bundle of medicinal leaves that had been placed on the wounds on his shins and elbows. Vaishnavi stared vacantly at her own foot, suspended in a compression pack of leaves and twigs, and bound tightly with some vines. ‘Sometimes, it’s a choice we must make, isn’t it?’
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