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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Valley of Masks

The Valley of Masks intrigued me sufficiently to continue reading to the very end. The cover for starters is extremely imaginative. I first turned the book all over, removed the jacket and even read and re read the excerpt to check what the book is about. For this book does not give a description as with other books on the back cover. I did not know what I am reading about and what to expect until I covered some ground with the book.
This book is narrated in the first person by a very highly placed member of a mythical secret organization that inhabits a mountainous valley. In this organization, nothing belongs to the individual, not even your name and your face. Not even your parents’ name. There is a group of mothers, there is a group of children and there is a group of men that are perpetrators of the progeny.
The narrator has been named Karna – all children are named after the most powerful set of brothers- the Pandavas and Karna. The group of children undergo rigorous training. They live in the brotherhood and spend quality time with the motherhood.
As they come of age, they are supposed to give up their face- a new face or mask is fitted for them and they are not supposed to show their face to anyone thereafter. The second important change that comes to them is the assignment of an alphanumeric number- in this case it is X470 and thereafter as X47 as he becomes a Wafadar- the most powerful among the rest. As one goes higher up in the system, they can take a new name- mostly after a bird.
The thought leader in the organization is Aum whose dogma forms the guiding principles for the clan.
The members of the cult are taught to challenge their bodies and endure beyond the normal human benchmarks in physical and mental aspect- to be able to kill single handedly in combat, to be able to kill with surgical precision using the various sharp instruments called chaunch and to be able to treat the dogma over and above everything else. They go through rigorous training of all sorts including the mastery of senses. They are allowed to indulge their senses so that they attain mastery over them.. However, there is no space for love, emotional attachment or even the finer arts like music. Thos weaker ones are eliminated, even if it meant the elimination of the Gentle Father who developed compassion for a particular member.
The narrator, at his high position within the organization has found a reason compelling enough to escape the confines of the valley. He has become a ‘savage” according to the principles of Aum- he is married and has children and does not live in the valley. He records his story for everyone to read as he awaits the arrival of the members of the cult- for they are sure to locate him and destroy him.

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