Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Great Indian Epics - A Bibliophilic Journey - Part 2

A brief about this series if you are reading this part first -  The Great Indian Epics series is a multi part post on the Mahabaratha and Ramayana. More specifically, reviews on the books based on these two epics (those that I have read so far). The intention is to encourage readers to pick up a few themselves, enjoy and benefit from knowing about these two epics that are verily epitomes of our culture and to feel proud of our great and ancient history. 

You can read Part 1 here.

Mahabaratha being a personal favorite between the two, I start with that :)

Mahabaratha -  By C. Rajagopalachari

To be able to read extrapolations of sub plots and creative re-tellings, one must first know the original version. I recommend  'Mahabaratha '- By C.Rajagopalachari for this purpose. The Mahabaratha is a huge epic and the himalayan proportions of names, relations between them, and sub stories can puzzle any reader. 

In his book, Rajaji tells us the main story with the most important details along with the necessary sub plots. Very well written and an absolute page turner, this book can be the one to educate the reader about the epic in totality. I read this book when I was in class 6 and to this day, this one remains to be my favorite version. Today,as I write this post, I can still see in my mind's eye,  the scene of Arjuna shedding his disguise as Brihanalanna, twanging his Gandhiva as the chariot rolls into the battlefield and shooting arrows at the feet of Bhishma and Drona as he passes by, as a sign of respect. I can still fell the goosebumps that sprouted in my hands and the awe that filled my 11 year old self as I read it. So vivid and enthralling is Rajaji's storytelling. 

I strongly feel that especially children who are going to read the epic for the first time must read this kind of a relatively puristic version before they start thinking about how it could have otherwise been. It creates a sense of awe and respect for our country and it's culture before it is put under scrutiny and validation. It is certainly not wrong to do so, but one must know well before questioning, is it not?!

Yajnaseni - By Pratibha Ray

'Yajnaseni' is Mahabaratha retold from Draupathi's perspective.As the title suggests, Draupathi or Yajnaseni (the one who emerged from the Yagnyakunda or the portals of the sacrificial fire) is the protagonist in this retelling.

Drapathi is addressed as 'Krishnaa' in the book, a name she gets because of her dark coloured skin. As a dark skinned beauty, a voracious reader and a woman with high intellectual prowess, she stands out amongst the 'usual' royal women who are drunk with vanity and revel in their pampered lifestyle.

One of the main themes of this book is Krishnaa's love for her Lord Krishna. She is the lord's 'Sakhi' who pines for his company and her devotion for him shines forth in the book.  Pratibha Ray also highlights Draupathi's sense of helplessness over her destiny. She makes the reader thoroughly empathise with the lady whose wishes are always overruled by what is meant to be. 

Another strong emotion that is felt by the protagonist and makes a lasting impression on the reader is the futility of war. The book beautifully brings this out through Drapathi's thoughts, as she watches the massacre, its aftermath and the pointlessness of a kingdom won after so much bloodshed. This is something we will all do well to have in mind in the present day world too.

The book is very well written and is a beautiful extrapolation of the epic from the eyes of one of the most important characters of the epic.

Note - I read this book about ten years back and have highlighted whatever my memory has retained. Originally written in Odia by Prathiba Ray, the English translation by Pradip Battacharya is a delight to read. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Great Indian Epics - A Bibliophilic Journey - Part 1

The most priced possessions of our country's ancient culture have been passed on to us in the form of our two great epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabaratha. The stories grip readers to this day. The moral dilemmas faced by the various characters resonate with our hearts and the path that each one of them took, hold a lot of relevant lessons for humanity even today, after hundreds of years.

That apart, the characters themselves are so colourful and multifaceted. Some of them are bold and strong, some meek and quiet, a few others enigmatic. Having so many sub plots and branches, they are also full of scope for interpretations and re-inventions.

We now have quite a handful of modern authors trying their hands at re-painting these ever fresh stories with colours of their own perspectives, interpretation, imagination and of course, extensive research. While the original story itself seems to deal with majorly black and white situations and characters, the modern authors tend to paint more of a grey picture that finds greater acceptance in today's world.

Sita is not just a demure, husband abiding chaste wife but has a strong voice of her own which she makes sure is heard, when needed. Her following Rama to the forest is not just an act of wifely chastity but a stubborn refusal to part with her husband.Kunti is not wholly a goodness personified mother who follows dharma relentlessly, but also a woman who plots quite a bit to keep her sons united and victorious. The Pandava brothers do have their differences but simply choose to stay united.

Also, a lot of characters who are just mere mentions in the popular re-tellings of the epics, become protagonists in the modern versions. Their role, strength of character and lofty sacrifices occupy an entire book. Another common trait among all these books is the awe inspiring lessons to be drawn that serve as a good reminder and inspiration for our everyday lives. 

All these apart, we also come to realise how advanced we were in the fields of science, astronomy, medicine, architecture and weapon science, to name a few. As against the popular notion of India being a 'developing' country, these epics prove that we were the most developed nation then. And that too at a time when the 'developed' nations of today were still hunter gatherers.

We have sadly lost the connect with our past and have grown to believe that everything western is superior. Even more appalling is the fact that we question our own history and call them 'myths'. We need to change this public opinion and modern authors are doing a great deal towards this cause by kindling the interest of India's young readers with their books.

Being a great fan of these mighty epics and having enjoyed reading quite a few versions of the original epic and modern extrapolations, I would like to reminisce the reading experience by extending it to the written word too! What follows is a series of reviews on all the books that I have read related to the Ramayana and the Mahabaratha. I hope you enjoy reading them and in the course, pick up some of the books to read them yourself. Come, let us embark on a wonderful journey through our rich past!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A way too long hiatus and the pen beckons ..

Image Source: Internet
Even as I type this, hiding inside a room with the door locked, I can hear my child wail outside as my husband frantically tries to feed him dinner. My heart palpitates faster and I dread hearing a harried cry - ' Aarthy, chapadamatengaraaaan' (He is refusing to eat).
Sigh.. Life has come to living for myself in intervals. Steal some time to read while the little one sleeps, clean the house when he goes to school(2 hrs is too less I tell you!), savour 10 minutes of shower time like it was an exotic holiday..

It is quiet outside. I assume meal time has kicked off well. Yay! I can finish this post!

So why did I take such a long break? I could say I was busy raising my 100% dependent baby or was too harried to do anything other than sit and stare into blank space whenever I got some precious off time. But, it all boils down to lack of will. Period. Sad but true.
I have been doing other things too - besides housekeeping and child rearing. Just that writing took the back seat for a while. A long while. Anyways, am back. And as I write, I realise that writing remains to be as therapeutic as it always was!

I have loads of travel posts and book reviews to write. My kid is already two and half and the last post I wrote about him was his first step. As a new addition, I have parenting musings too. Its all getting too heavy inside my head and I fervently hope to go on an unloading spree. Oh what would I have done if not for this dear blog who patiently listens to everything that I have to say!

Did I tell you it would be a record worthy event if I managed to finish this post uninterrupted? Not to be! Child wailed, the dad wailed even more and I just came back after finishing the last phase of kid's dinner and a tantrum.
Mind Voice: Do you really think you will manage to write?
Me:Yes.I need to. I will. Let me give it a shot atleast?