Part travel-journal, part retelling of an Indian epic, part cultural and political analysis, this first book by a former editor of Tokyo's Asahi Evening News is both eclectic and ambitious. For the most part, Blank keeps his wide-ranging and amusing narrative neatly focused and his huge cast of characters relevant and sharply delineated. Blank's attention swings back and forth between India's mythological past and its only slightly less extraordinary present, alternately recounting episodes in the life of Rama--blue-skinned god of the title and hero of the 3,000-year-old epic known as the Ramayana--and his own adventures as he tracks the wanderings of Rama across the subcontinent. Along the route, Blank encounters gurus and guerrillas, mendicants and maharajahs, Indian idols in shadowy shrines and klieg-lighted TV studios. Rama's struggles with demons and demigods are paralleled by the author's imbroglios with the wildly bureaucratic Indian Postal Service as he attempts to send a package home. Though he reveals little personal information about himself, Blank probes beneath the exotic surface of Indian life to examine such matters as Hindus' emphasis on duty, the growing number of couples marrying for love, and Hindu fatalism compared with Calvinistic predestination. On a more intimate level, he speaks with Mother Teresa, and with Arun Govil, who portrayed Rama on a popular TV series. More personal information about Blank would have been welcome; even so, a delightfully offbeat travelogue.