The Palace of Illusions – Chitra Lekha Banerjee Divakaruni
The Epic – Mahabharat is I guess one of the most loved mythological book from our part of the world, second only to Ramayan in my opinion. Since my school days as a part of curriculum, I must have read quite a few versions of the same but this one – the one that I read recently stands out from all of them as it is the “Draupadi’s side of the same story”. Of-course it should be called a work of fiction and wildest imagination but yes it has almost all the twists and instances of the original one tweaked and made more interesting by the writer. Although it should be debatable from the point of the historians but I seriously wonder how far back in time we can go to find the truth and how someone can justify the story other way round as we believe it or are told. I had heard of this quite a while ago and was always keen on it but never got the opportunity to read it – this time around as part of a break between 7 books back to back from one of my favorite writers – I picked this one as a refreshing change. And let me say this – it indeed is a very interesting book and superb story telling from Chitra – she had me totally hooked to the book from the very start to the very end (ending is a bit lethargic and over stretched) and is damn good.
With so many mesmerizing characters in the epic story – it is indeed very tough to name your favorites but my top three in no particular order will always be Krishna for sure with his divine smile and cool attitude, Bhishmapitamah an immortal and for the third favorite it has to be a tie between the great Karna and Ashwathama (son of Dronacharya). As we have seen the amazing television series by one of the greatest film makers of India on the same book and unbelievable even after two or more decades later – the images of those characters kept coming to my mind as the story progresses.
The only change this book or the author offers to the reader is that Draupadi is infatuated or rather madly in love and awe with Karna before even she had met the Pandavas. Unfortunately she was destined to have a different life and outcome but throughout her life all she wanted was Karna, she really cared about him a lot until the secret of him being a Pandava himself is revealed. Also Krishna is shown and treated as a great good friend of Draupadi and not like her brother who saves her from Kaurava’s as Yudhishthir loses her in the game of dice. Mind-blowing is the way she has covered, written and justified too the multiple love angels and stories of Draupadi. Never in my wildest imaginations I could have thought of that but it was a very interesting perspective and I will not deny that she had me amused rather smiling throughout the narrative. Also the Mother in Law and Daughter in Law rivalry between Kunti and Draupadi is too good a read and it actually made me think – why not? But all in all its an amazing story that we all know word to word yet it is told in a refreshingly new way with new twists that no one could imagine and is a must read for all mythological story fans. Do not miss it as it gives you quite some food for your thoughts.
After finishing this – now I am more inclined to read the new versions of “Bhagwad Gita” guess Devdutt Patnayak has written one and then there is this new version of Ramayan too available from the point of view of Sita I guess – I gotta get them and read them too.