A Thought-Provoking Novel: 'Master O' review in Muse India
Dhiraj Singh is a writer, abstract artist, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. In his debut fiction, Master O, he presents a dystopian future where mankind’s insatiable desire for everything on Earth comes at the expense of other living beings, causing harm to them and usurping their space. The story features an elephant morph, named Vajradhara Buddha, who, unlike Frankenstein, does not harm its creator but the villains of the society.
The story revolves around Master O, Ake, Bagga Aunty and the elephant morph. It consists of 81 chapters, making the reader hop from one scene to another in a jiffy. Master O is an absorbing and thought-provoking fiction that explores the consequences of man’s shortsightedness and selfishness to the exclusion of less privileged beings.
Now let’s track the story without, of course giving away the climax or suspense, via appropriate sub-heads some of which represent the characters and some the names of the chapters in the book.
MAIN CHARACTERS/ SNIPPETS OF THE STORY
Master O is a spiritual leader with millions of followers including the Minister of Emotions, Bagga Aunty, and a top TV journalist, Ake. His ideology revolves around freeing people from their mental prisons and narrow identities, helping them wander and experience life. He opines that in the process of attaining a higher purpose, people may do some regrettable things not out of malice but to find a way out of these circles of birth and death.
Ake is an expert interviewer who exposes the vulnerabilities of famous people. He derives pleasure from making them nervous, sweat, and squirm in unplanned situations.
Minister of Emotions, Bagga Aunty
Bagga Aunty is a minister and daughter of the genetic scientist who created the elephant morphs. As a child, she watched the birth and growth of the first elephant morph known as Ibhari. She was able to remain in governments of different parties that fought pitched battles with one other.
Vajradhara Buddha is a new species of elephant. It was created after many failed attempts at artificial insemination with a magic gene. The Ibhari called itself Vajradhara Buddha.
Ake formally introduced Master O to the viewers, turned away from the camera, and felt a spear stab his heart only to find an empty chair, as Master O vanished like a ghost. The producer was yelling, “Where is he?” “I have not gone anywhere,” (p14) said Master O and was in his seat like a magician. The producer screamed, “How did he do that?” (p 15)
The interview was interrupted by a caller identifying himself as the messenger of the Ibharis, laying conditions for a truce between the Ibharis and the Government, one of the conditions being that Master O should be the mediator. When Ake broached the subject of Ibharis, Master O responded saying, “Did you know that the human animal is not the only one that feels, but certainly the only one who thinks he is the only one.” (p 26)
During the course, the producer realized that Master O turned the tables and started being the interviewer.
“You are a star interviewer. But very few people know the real Ake.” (p 39) Master O countered and drove the celebrity journalist to confess his earlier life.
Ake started confessing his earlier job in the production of porn videos himself acting as a porn star along with different girls. The producer’s efforts to stop Ake from confessing proved futile. In the end, Ake thanked Master O with a smile. The producer wondered how he could smile in a shit storm like this.
Encounter with the Ibhari
On the way home in his car, Ake reached the mouth of the old bridge and saw a massive silhouette. He was terrified on noticing an Ibhari unknown to him until then. It raised its trunk as a sign of salute. Ake got out of the car and went towards it. It had the skin of a newborn which was pink and translucent. It had silver eyelashes and blue eyes glistening like gemstones. It raised its trunk towards Ake who without hesitation in one swoop was swung on its back. Seated thus on a legend, he was led to a nearby step well.
Sashimi of Raghubar Das Colony noticed her phone beeping with a video message showing a guy whom she recognized as the ‘porn star’ in Master O’s interview. Instantly she received a call from Sukma, her friend. “Did you see Ake’s video?” Sukma yelled. “Who is Ake?” Sashimi asked. “That TV guy with Master O, who was missing after the interview,” (p 68) Sukma said. Sashimi wondered how Sukma knew that she received the video. She began to watch the video from the beginning.
“You, I am talking to you,” Ake said to Sashimi looking directly at her. (p 69) Sashimi was slithering her hand to the remote, but to her horror, she heard Ake saying, “Don’t touch that. You can’t fast forward this.” (p 70) The conversation with Ake gave Sashimi a feeling that she was staring at a mystery that was beyond algos and decipherable patterns.
‘Master O’s gift’
Master O had the gift of being in multiple places at the same time, but some imposter managed to breach it and made Ake spill the beans.
The Prime Minister
The Ibharis outfoxed the Prime Minister by fooling him into believing that they were hiding somewhere in New Param Vihar where the Prime Minister got the tanks deployed. Compounding his irritation was the disappearance of Ake.
Prime Minister’s motorcade entered the Floater Island to unveil the statue of a ‘Super Soldier.’ The Prime Minister walked towards the statue of the Super Soldier and when he pushed the button to draw the curtain around the super soldier, there was a loud ear-piercing explosion that tore the portable staircase on which the Prime Minister stood and reduced it to smithereens.
‘A New PM’
As the news of the Prime Minister’s assassination spread, Party’s senior executives unanimously asked Bagga Aunty to be the New Prime Minister.
The elephants started moving on both sides of Highway-24 and rushed towards a petrol pump nearby. Attendants of the petrol pump ran away. Those who were sitting in the cars for their turn came out and ran away too. The elephants began their rampage––overturning, kicking, and battering the cars. The leader of the herd moved forward, took out the petrol dispenser, and sprinkled petrol all around like a gardener watering the plants. Another elephant went down the road to a food cartman with a lit stove. The elephant dragged the cart towards the leader elephant who lobbed the cart along with the burning stove at the petrol pump causing flames all around. The main storage tank erupted causing a fireball. The news of arson by elephants spread like wildfire.
While Master O was travelling in his old ambassador car along with Sashimi, they found no highway and it vanished to their utter surprise. The road opened to a vast stretch of clean land like a desert and both of them were transfixed staring at the empty desert.
Bagga Aunty called a meeting of the Cabinet to discuss the Ibhari menace. But suddenly she became blind. Sterner as she was, Bagga Aunty did not want her inexplicable blindness to come in the way of her duties. In the meeting, Home Minister narrated the steps taken in evacuating people to safer places and that there was no law in the Indian Penal Code to book animals.
Bagga Aunty shot back saying, “No laws to book animals! They have burned down a petrol pump.” (p 199)
I-42 was the first successful creation of a new species called Ibhari, resembling Ganesha with unique powers including time travel and mind reading. Only I-42 had the gift of knowing why things did or did not happen, making him Vajradhara, the Buddha of the thunderbolt. Although highly intelligent, other Ibharis lacked this clairvoyant ability. The Ibharis were impossible to find for humans. I-42 predicted an unpleasant future for the dishonest Prime Minister.
The Cabinet, headed by Bagga Aunty, decided to adopt a wait-and-watch approach to the Ibhari threat. Immediately after the cabinet meeting, Bagga Aunty boarded the chopper with her physician and commandos for proceeding to All India Hospital. She fell asleep during the ride but woke up in complete darkness, calling out for her doctor. Instead, she heard the voice of Zulfikar, who informed her that he was a messenger of Ibharis. Bagga Aunty realized that she was taken hostage.
‘Balancing The Act’
“As Vajradhara Buddha, I am given the lever to balance the scales and to bring up those who have been weighed down by human wickedness.” (p197) “His immense capacity to occupy and take over has hastened his end. What use is it if his eyes can’t see through the illusions of his own creation? I knew they wouldn’t heed the warnings I sent them. (p 214) “One Prime Minister gone. Another prime Minister has disappeared.” (p 215)
Master O received a distress call from Bagga Aunty but couldn’t reach out to those taken to spirals of time. He also realized that his alter ego, Sashimi, and Ake were captives of the Ibharis.
Lissie, a star writer for Dystopia Magazine, struggled to write an obituary of someone who wasn’t dead. She drove towards the old city bridge and saw a light twinkling, possibly a message. She heard a young boy’s voice calling her by name but found no one at the deserted Jokhimpura fort. Her phone rang and a young boy calling himself Zulfikar informed her that he was a messenger.
Lissie took a little time to get used to the darkness around her. She heard a woman crying. Lissie shouted ‘Hello.’ Bagga Aunty realised that at last someone had come and she shouted back saying that she could hear her. Lissie was pleased to hear a woman’s voice. She switched on the battery on her phone and started walking towards the voice.
“Have you come alone?” (p 277) Lissie heard the voice but saw no one. “Who are you? A spirit?” she asked. “Stop. I am no spirit, I am Lovely Bagga, [oh] young lady, can you not see me?” (p 277) Lovely Bagga responded and felt that the girl had also gone blind like her.
Is Bagga Aunty alive? If not, who is the Prime Minister? What is the fate of Ake? Whether Ibharis succeeded in their mission? How Master O was mysteriously replaced by an imposter in the TV interview?
Pick up this absorbing book and cruise through it to unravel the above mysteries.
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