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Light of Lights [Paperback]

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Item description for Light of Lights by Lata Pimplaskar...

A small farm in Iowa; a flock of birds in the yellow grass. No car in the driveway, but there is a dead girl upstairs. Tony sees it all and keeps quiet, but the loss of his sister haunts him. Years later, and thousands of miles away in India, it seems like his faith and his job as a missionary will give him the strength and the lasting happiness he had been yearning for. But when he meets Maya, a beautiful Hindu girl, he feels he is offered heaven on earth. Despite his belief that love has no boundaries and would dispel all differences, when his love for Maya crosses the barriers that are established by the institutions of faith built by men, his struggle begins, once again. The mysterious and sublime beauty of India, with its ancient, strange and complex ways, its sectarian strife, assails the reader in this powerful novel of East and West. Can Tony reconcile his well-guarded Christian beliefs with the universality found in the wisdom of Vedanta, epitomized in the form of Maya? Who will help them face the future together? Christ or Krishna...Mary or Meera?

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Item Specifications...

Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8" Width: 5.04" Height: 0.65"
Weight:   0.64 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Publisher   Athena Press Publishing Company
ISBN  1931456585  
ISBN13  9781931456586  

Availability  55 units.
Availability accurate as of May 25, 2017 10:16.
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1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
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Reviews - What do customers think about Light of Lights?

Bold treatment of a sensitive subject  Jan 22, 2004
Lata Pimplaskar takes reader on an exotic journey from a farm in Iowa to a town in India. It would be an injustice to say she writes about life and places in India. She happens to paint the picture of social, religious and spiritual life. I especially visualized the scenes of Lord Ganesh Festival, the flood, railway station vividly. There are good ironies but little humor.
The novel has overall serious tone. She depicts the futility of imposing one's relgious faith on others.
Also shown are drawbacks of certain Indian customs and serious consequences of rigid moral attitudes. I especially liked the depiction of Chitra Pandit, a lawyer by profession. Though a side character she appealed to me so much that the heroine Maya seemed to pale a little in her comparison. Maya does arouse sympathy especially when her family rejects her ruthlessly. I became compassionate toward Chitra Pandit's father too. I feel it is inhuman be a perpetually angry human being.I became curious to know whether he was a changed man after getting assaulted by Moslem mob but there is no reference to that effect. The novel could have been helped by showing he develops change of heart and love for his daughter.
I thoroughly enjoyed the description of attempted conversion to Christianity of the tribal people.
Tony did not seem to have any unusual virtues for a girl like Maya to fall in love. He does have a traumatic past. He takes too long a time to accept Maya as she is.
As far as language is concerned it flows very well. The use of proper words couldn't be better.
I think the greatest asset of the book was I could finish it. I cannot say that of many books on New York Times best seller list.I am not a great reader of fiction, preferring more often non-fiction.
In love with a Pagan  Aug 20, 2003
Lata Pimplaskar, based in New Jersey but with roots in Maharashtra, India, is a professional interior designer as well as a novelist. Her latest novel Light of Lights relates the love affair between Tony, an American Roman Catholic lay missionary in Maharashtra, and his native housemaid Maya. The story features a number of poignant scenes highlighting socio-religious problems such as the way Catholic priests deal with their stringent vow of celibacy, the incomprehension of Hindus and even converts from Hinduism vis-à-vis Christian exclusivism, the resistance of a traditional society against the less restricted modern mores, the increasing doubts about the whole missionary endeavour among contemporary Christians, and of course the struggle between religious divisions and romantic attraction. Apart from the thematic angle of Hindu-Christian interaction, the novel also contains a good and sufficiently complex human story, with characters who are more than mere parable icons conveying an ideological message.

Lata Pimplaskar's description of the sociology and psychology of the Western missionary in India is realistic through and through, far more than I would have expected from a Hindu. Usually, Hindus speaking about Christian missionaries tend to lapse into either one of two extremes: fawning sympathy or angry antipathy. In this case, it will be no coincidence that in her note of thanks, the author mentions a few people who have their feet in both worlds and whose feedback has helped her in fine-tuning the characters, particularly the Christian ones. The reviewer, being similarly placed in between Christian and Hindu cultures and being familiar since childhood with the missionary phenomenon, I can only confirm the realism in the accounts of missionary Tony's convictions, doubts and conscience problems.

Since many Hindus picture missionaries as a monolithic army of grimly determined warriors against the native religion, it is especially the element of doubt which deserves emphasis. Once missionaries get personally acquainted with the flock they are expected to convert, many of them aren't so sure anymore whether destroying inbred religious beliefs and attachments is all that desirable. Some give up the missionary project altogether, many more settle for the compromise of doing social work and just hoping that some of its beneficiaries will spontaneously feel attracted to the Christian message. As a nun, an old schoolmate of my mother's, once told me: "I went to India in order to convert people. But it is India that has converted me." Not that she became a Hindu, but she integrated herself into Hindu society all while doing social work in Mumbai. In this novel, we see how one of Tony's supervisors is familiar enough with this accommodative tendency, warning him against it. For that is the orthodox position, still alive and vigilant: don't let your personal sympathy for individual Pagans degenerate into a sneaking sympathy for Paganism itself.

It is easy, and a guarantee of applause, to describe and ridicule the petty-minded quarrels which may erupt in a Hindu Brahmin clan over the intricate rules of ritual, most hilariously if it concerns a funeral. That is what was done in U.R. Anantha Murthy's novel Samskara, where a Brahmin family is all in a quandary about how to properly dispose of the dead body on a relative who had strayed from the path of orthodoxy. Though written by a self-critical Brahmin, the odd Marxist-Missionary alliance in Indian and American academe has exploited the novel Samskara to the hilt for the purpose of ridiculing and denouncing Brahminism. In Light of Lights, in one of its more hilarious scenes, the tables are turned, and we see how Christians are all in a panic when having to decide whether a baptised Hindu convert deserves a Christian funeral, given that with his dying breath he had invoked the Hindu gods. But the scene is by no means one of hard sarcasm. Indeed, the author is full of empathy when describing the exasperation of Christian missionaries confronted with the Hindu mentality of having Christ coexist with the older gods rather than seeing the need for a choice.

As far as I can see, this novel is thematically the first of its kind. Throughout the colonial period, numerous stories have been published, often autobiographical ones, by Western Christians about their experiences in the mission: as successful or failing converters, as doubters and renegades, or simply as observers of the native societies in their transformation under the impact of colonialism and the cultural penetration of Christianity. On the Hindu side, there are essays and pamphlets, and not more than a few serious studies (most of all Sita Ram Goel's History of Hindu-Christian Encounters), but little or no literary elaboration of this topic. So here at last we have a good story that takes the reader through some real-life human implications of the missionary presence in India, the greatest stronghold of what many Christians still call "idolatry". Though Lata Pimplaskar seems to have a very modest attitude about her own literary ranking, this novel is entitled to a mention in future histories of religion-related literature.

"Soul"-searching and finding a love  Jul 4, 2003
In this seminal work, Ms. Pimplaskar has amalgamated a wonderful global love story with the words of ancient wisdom that has kept the soul of India breathing and alive despite centuries of repressive invasions from Alexander the Great in BCE, to the Afghans and the western world in the second millennium (CE). Ms. Pimplaskar fills the story within this backdrop of the landscape of the subcontinent that is the home of most known religions. India with its colorful contradictions born of centuries of tolerance and intolerance, tradition and defiance, wisdom and ignorance, nobility and pettiness, arrogance and humility provides an authentic set up for Ms. Pimplaskar's vision. Light of light refers to the ancient wisdom that guides one to the search of self as revealed in the most ancient of all religions.

Light of lights is a love story, woven around a missionary, a lost soul himself, who lands in India, to save souls of "pagan" Indians. Tony is heedless to the needs of those around him, except through his "mission." Though he falls in love with the beautiful Hindu girl Maya, he is unawares of conflicts he is creating for her. The author lets you forget the real drama and indulges you in the love story. But we soon discover that the book is far deeper than a mere love story. It only draws us in through these superficial realities into learning about the search for self.

The author's concerns about conversions and proselytization are part of the growing debate in India of the third millennium (CE). The author graphically but subtly delineates that conversions are violence. They are violence against the souls incurred by those who are economically powerful but who are intolerant of the views of others. Violence carried out under a religious guise leave an indelible mark on the soul of the family that it divides.

But the story is not simply a love story wrapped up to serve you the Vedantic realization (delivered through the lips of Harikaka, the real hero of the book.) The book is replete with humorous anecdotes and strong three-dimensional characters. It allows us to view realistic love and hate in a family set up. Take the Pandit family, for example. There is the arrogant and much feared, but well despised attorney Mr. Pandit. Though he is unaware of it, he is blessed with a loving, docile and much loved wife. Enter Chitra, their strong-willed intelligent daughter who hates what her father stands for, but who ends up realizing her strong love for him when he is getting his just desserts. Another story is of Maya's family who abandon her without a word simply because they fear social disapprobation through her actions. Light of Lights is a story that is engrossing and wrenching at the same time, as it is current yet filled with ancient wisdom.

Kiran Desai

The Light with which we see, not the lights we see.  Mar 22, 2003
Reviewed by a Professor of Philosophy

Ms. Pimplaskar has achieved in a rather short novel what so many of us struggle to put together in innumerable articles and books. India in her Hindu garb is One, indivisible, the origin and matrix of the many paths of return to the unity, the womb of creation.
In a limpid, transparent prose, from the first line of the book to the last, the reader cannot help but feel at home. India becomes alive in this magnificent novel and so do the characters. Do not be surprised if the conflicts of the characters accompany you to work, play or sleep. Your own integrity is at risk while reading this book.
Are you close to Tony, the Catholic? Missionary? with no other roots in the Catholic community than the distance of his own trauma that brought him to India? Or is it Maya, the beautiful Hindu girl, raised to love, but divided constantly by those, like Tony, who put their ideology ahead of their heart? Why is she abandoned by her own family the moment she consummates her love with Tony? Or are you more like Mr. Pandit, a brahmin barrister, but also a walking, embittered shadow of the Colonial British Empire ? Or perhaps Chritra, Mr. Pandit's daughter, also a lawyer, trying to pay for the sins of her father by helping the poor and the dispossessed? Father and daughter are separated by the colonial mimesis that brought them together, but in the end reunited by love in suffering. The fabric of the Indian landscape is turned from the prose of the book to the mental webs of the mind of the reader without any effort. The cycle of festivals props up as a background to the cycle of human life, the solid identity of the lower casts, the sectarian strife, the wheel of conversions from one religion to another, and back to the original one to return to the new one. Where the prose stops and our lives take over is up to the reader to decide, but it does happen when reading this book.
Maya, the lead character of the novel, steals your heart away. Why wouldn't Tony fall in love with her? Yes, he does, but in doing so the reader also discovers that he comes empty from inside to the ritual of love and also empty handed. He can only take not give. Maya must conform to his lines of demarcation. She must convert, she must only serve his god with the exclusion of all others, she must... she must...And what about Tony, what does he have to give up? Not much, if anything. He is a Catholic that becomes a missionary by contract. He is no priest, no theologian, not much of a religious person. He is a medical technician running away from America and his sister's suicide, to hide in India and lick his wounds. But he falls in love and he is unprepared for its power of transformation.
Who will guide the conclusion of this novel, of Tony and Maya, Christ or Krishna, the Savior or the Avatara? Is there room in Tony for human growth? Will Maya surrender her integrity as a Hindu to the unity and indivisibility of life, to the One, by trimming her inner life to the size of a superimposition, as required by Tony, on the One? Tony, Maya or the reader do not seem to know the answer. But one suspects the author does. It is in the title itself of the novel" Light of Lights." For the reader to know beyond the end he/she must read this book not looking for the lights we see when reading it but looking instead for the light with which we see, lumen de lumine, the light of light. Highly recommended, 4,1/2 stars.

I am a
Prof. of Philosophy, Emeritus, SUNY
And a Director of the Bio-cultural Research Institute, Florida


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