July 2014 \
Power of Nine

By Rohit Vaid


Nine, Vengeance of the Warrior

Publisher: Penguin Metro Reads, Penguin Group

Author: Shobha Nihalani

Pages: 344

Price: INR 250/- 




Bharatpuri, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

Anita had spent half a day at the Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Vedavidya Pratishthan library. After going through the rows of dusty tomes, she asked to meet with a senior professor. Acharya V.K. Shastri was a tiny man, bespectacled and bald. He had about him an aura of indignation and looked at her suspiciously when she thanked him for taking time out to see her. He led her to an office in the corner, which was more like a makeshift storage area with a desk and two chairs crammed into the available space. Dusty piles of books and boxes were stacked on the floor. A metal cabinet crowded one corner, blocking access to his desk. The Acharya had had to slide sideways to get to his chair. He indicated the well-worn seat across from his wooden table.

Fingertips together, he waited for her to speak.

‘Acharyaji, I am a journalist.’ He harrumphed in response. Anita ignored it and continued, ‘I have come to Ujjain to research this city’s connection with King Ashoka in the fourth century BC. Ujjain was the capital of the Avanti kingdom of King Vikramaditya. I’m trying to establish the link between King Ashoka and the secret knowledge he gained while he lived here.’ Then her voice dropped down a notch, ‘He is believed to have created the secret society of the Nine unknown men.’

The Acharya immediately flared up. He threw aside his spectacles and looked at her. His dusky complexion turned an angry red. ‘That is the most bizarre story I’ve heard in my life! Is that why you came here? To talk about some hearsay and disturb my peace? Then he stood up and, pushing back his chair, pointed to door. ‘Go research your pulp fiction nonsense elsewhere … Secret society, huh? Things which have no basis are being researched for truth just because you need some sensationalism in your life!’ He smirked, shaking his head. ‘Journalists these days!’

Anita didn’t move. She stared at him stoically. ‘Acharyaji, with all due respect, there is a mention in history texts that Ashoka lived in Ujjain before he became king, when he was the viceroy of the western provinces of the Mauryan Empire. And after he became king and went to war with the Kalingan army, he was overcome with remorse and turned to Buddhism. He created the secret society to protect mankind from the ancient knowledge derived from the Vedic scriptures. The kind of knowledge that could annihilate an entire civilization,’ she said animatedly.

‘That is rubbish! You are creating fantasy stories and drawing the wrong conclusions!’ Acharyaji spat out angrily. Anita was afraid he would burst a blood vessel and fall flat on his face. And secretly hoped it would happen. She could not fathom why he was getting so worked up. ‘You shouldn’t have come here. This is a library. Please go. You have wasted your time and mine.’

Anita was thick-skinned enough to ignore his insults. She wasn’t going to let this old fart get to her. She held her ground and continued. ‘Sir, I don’t understand your irritation. I am working on a serious project and was hoping for some guidance from such an astute scholar as yourself—’ He was about to interrupt, when she raised her hand to stop him. He clenched his fists. ‘Here me out first. Ancient Vedic literature contains some highly developed scientific findings that are considered even more advanced than those in the modern world. For example, the twenty-three-foot-high Ashoka Pillar in Delhi, weighing over six tones, built during the Gupta era, is an enigma. Modern metallurgists are still pondering over the quality of the pillar which has shown no sign of corrosion of thousands of years. And it is widely believed that in ancient civilizations, wars were fought using nuclear weapons.’

‘You are pulling nonsense out of thin air!’ he said, irritated.

‘Not nonsense, sir,’ Anita continued, not the least bit miffed by his attitude. ‘Archaeologists have recently discovered evidence of atomic blasts dating back thousands of years. Therefore, it is this kind of knowledge that Ashoka felt would lead to evil plans by certain individuals. After he converted to Buddhism and vowed never to hurt another, he created the secret society so that such ancient knowledge would be protected from mankind, in case it fell into the wrong hands.’