Book Review, Indian authors

Sita Warrior of Mithila : Book 2 of Ram Chandra Series by Amish

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati suvrata|

Abhyuttthanamadharmasya tada prakritisambhavah||

O keeper of righteous vows, remember this,

Whenever dharma is in decline, Or there is an upsurge of adharma:

The Sacred Feminine will incarnate.

Amish’s Ram Chandra series had its debut with The Scion of Ikshvaku 2 years ago. Fans have been waiting for the release of Sita Warrior of Mithila since then. I do not claim fealty to Sita_Warrior_of_Mithila_coverthe fandom, let me confess, I haven’t read The Scion of Ikshvaku beyond a few chapters. I left it alone since I found it dragging in a manner familiar to me from Amish’s The Oath of the Vayuputras from the Shiva Trilogy (don’t get me wrong, I liked the book, the climax even). The slow place was acceptable to me there because it was the end of a series I had so dearly followed. Besides the characters in the narrative had all felt fresh and real. The Scion of Ikshvaku felt like it was merely riding on the fame and anticipation the Shiva Trilogy has caused in its splendor. However, the trailer and the cover of this book did not fail to appeal to my senses. Inspite of that, I began reading Sita Warrior of Mithila with ample apprehension and timidity. And then, the first chapter of the book happened!

After the first chapter I literally closed the book and said, “Amish, you have me hook line and sinker!” In here Sita is a badass! She is a warrior worth her salt. She is intelligent, smart and pragmatic. And yes, she means business! The story revolves around her cause and the means she adopts for it. She constantly reminds you of a modern working woman who has to balance her work and personal life, albeit with a very supportive and understanding partner who shares her goal. It’s a relationship in perfect harmony. *sigh* The story here has a pace, quite comfortable to any reader. The language is simple and comprehensible. But, that’s the thing with Amish! His works are known for the freshness of the plot than decorative language. Though in this case, the language is also overly descriptive and screenplay-ish, which is quite possibly intentional given his eye for detail.

AmishThe story here has a pace, quite comfortable to any reader. The language is simple and comprehensible. But, that’s the thing with Amish! His works are known for the freshness of the plot than decorative language. Though in this case, the language is also overly descriptive and screenplay-ish, which is quite possibly intentional given his eye for detail. He subtly touches contemporary debate points like meat-eating and Jallikettu. But fails to make a decisive statement anywhere. At some places, Amish seems to be struggling to defend certain characters in alignment to how we know them from the popular epic, Ramayan. And, throughout the narrative, his politics seems to be diplomatic. I would have loved a little more bravado, but still not complaining.

Amish explains his style of narration in this series as multi-linear, i.e, the first three books will respectively be in Ram’s, Sita’s and Raavan’s perspectives. All these three books start and end at the kidnapping of Sita by Raavan. The fourth and last book in the series will be the conclusive one that’ll take the story ahead and tie everything neatly with a bow. This means that a lot many parts of the story will be repeated in all three books. So, for readers intending to read the books one after the other may be at a disadvantage. But it also means that no matter where you start reading the series, between book 1 to 3, you do not miss out on the story.

 

Verdict: It is fresh, and fast! This Sita is to watch out for. Ram Chandra series is picking up with this installment of the story. So if you are a fan of the genre, you might not want to miss this.

Continue reading “Sita Warrior of Mithila : Book 2 of Ram Chandra Series by Amish”

Book Review, Indian authors

Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths

Very few writers incite in me the urge to reach for their books at the devdutt_660_041113063104mere sight of their names on the cover and Devdutt Pattanaik is one of them because, according to me, he is the master of retellings. His works, Jaya and Sita have been revelations to me; and The Pregnant King is still one of my favorites. His stronghold seems to be his ability to stay subjectively objective in drawing from mythology what is relevant to the ever changing modern scenario. He is not a puritanist bogged down by the conservative traditionalist. Neither is he dismissive of the western view on Indian mythology. He understands that it is important to stand firmly grounded on the cultural nuances to understand and interpret Indian mythology. So when such a reasonable and learned man shifts his gaze to Greek mythology, and you love reading mythology, you follow suit.

olympusOlympus: The Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths comes to me in my near total ignorance of Greek Mythology, but for a few stories here and there. And, because I read from cover to cover, the Author’s note required atleast three reading of me because I believe that is the most important part of the book. It prepares you for what follows by giving you a briefing as to what Greek mythology came about geographically, politically, socially and culturally. The book is later divided into 8 books each for a Greek God and the mythical stories surrounding them.

Pattanaik, as expected of him, doesn’t stray from drawing parallels between Indian and Greek Mythologies. He finds parallels between characters, incidents, and ideologies. This book, like any good book, has worked up my curiosity about Greek mythology.

Pattanaik’s writing is simple and straightforward as always. The stories are almost journalist and to-the-point and the notes that follow are where he lets his analytical and reasoning brain at work. This is the kind of book you go back to for light reading. The stories are prophetic, pragmatic and sometimes cringe-worthy-all of what is beautifully handled by Pattanaik’s simple language that keeps him an observer and narrator, at a safe distance from all action. I would go as far as calling him a modern day Sanjaya, the commentator of the Mahabharata war to the blind King Dhritarashtra.

P.S. I would love for Devdutt Pattanaik to turn his gaze towards South Indian folklores, which otherwise seem to be largely neglected. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know his fresh and progressive views on the myths down south?

Verdict: This book is for Greek mythology neophytes and can serve as your crash course in the same.

Continue reading “Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths”

Book haul

Amazon discount on Kindle edition: Feb 2017

Amazon is a book lovers’ friend and here’s why. Amazon is selling a few books for Kindle users at a throw-away price of Rs.39. Here’s how to make the most of it. (If you would rather go through the entire list by yourself then click here.) 

Although the site claims that the discount changes hourly not much has changed in the past two days. The following are the books I bought, followed by the ones you might be interested in.

  1. An Unsuitable Boy by Karan Johar with Poonam Saxena
    • Because Bollywood spice do you no harm when it’s not burning a hole through your pocket. Also, I started reading it and it has me hooked on like his TV show, Koffee with Karan.
  2. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor
    • Because the paperback is priced at Rs.414 and the Kindle edition at Rs. 39. You do the math! Besides the novel has people raving about the language, satire, and political relevance.
  3. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
    • Apart from the Kindle edition the only available print of this book is a hardcover priced at Rs.1867. I’ve been eyeing this book long enough to snatch the deal.
  4. Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik
    • Every single penny spent on this book is worth your while. This book is going to change the way you look at the epic, Mahabharata. So, if this price drop isn’t a reason enough for you to buy it then I don’t know what is.
  5. Mrs.Funnybones: She’s just like You and a lot like Me by Twinkle Khanna
  6. Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
    • A massive book on the last few years of Indian Mughal history of by a historian of such repute should not be missed by a history-buff. Especially when the price is as low as Rs.39.
  7. The Great Derangement: Climate change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh
    • This is a small book of 176 pages and the only noteworthy non-fiction essay in this haul. And, it’s by Amitav Ghosh.
  8. Playing It My Way: My Autobiography by Sachin Tendulkar
    • This one is for the sports enthusiasts and because, well, Sachin!
  9. Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored by Rishi Kapoor with Meena Iyer
    • Though it hasn’t created ripples in the literary world, like the Karan Johar one did, it could be worth a shot given the controversies Mr.Kapoor creates on Twitter. Again, Bollywood spice in such little price. (Look! It rhymed!)
  10. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    • The only classic on the discount list with worldwide acceptance.

That’s my list of the Kindle editions worth your time currently available on Amazon for Rs.39. Go grab the offer and let me know what you feel.

ciao!

Book Review, Indian authors

Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished

Asura : Tale of the Vanquished has been on my to-read list for asuraquite some time and I decided to finally get my hands on it when I came across it in
a Kindle deal. This is also part of my read-more-Indian-authors campaign for myself.

By the time I got to the book-4 years too late- the author Anand Neelakantan has already written books based on Mahabharata and has signed on to write 3 books as a prequel to Bahubali, the big budget, multi-lingual movie. Until after I finished the book and did some research I didn’t even realize that the author is a Malayali (though I suspected so from all the Kerala references). He is an engineer from Thripunithura, Kochi.

Anand_Neelakantan.jpg
Anand Neelakantan

Every Malayali worth one’s salt is aware of
the version of Ramayana in which Sita is Ravana’s daughter. In this book, Anand Neelakantan explores this interpretation of the story through the eyes of two men, Ravana and Bhadra.

The story is presented to us through the eyes of Ravana who is at his death bed. Ravana needs no introduction whatsoever and has always been portrayed as the quintessential villain- the hot-headed, immoral, greedy, lustful, yet learned, artistic and mighty Emperor of Lanka. Yet, Anand Neelakantan paints a more human picture of Ravana, who is virtuous yet flawed.

The biggest tragedy of life was that we grow up and achieve our boyhood dreams.

-Ravana, Asura : Tale of the Vanquished

He is brave and courageous but isn’t immune to fear. He is passionate and compassionate, but also jealous, competitive and selfish at the same time. He is a victim of his own ambitions. He is ideologically progressive, yet practically regressive. This Ravana is by no means the villain, but neither is he the hero.

Another person who narrates the story to us is Bhadra, an Asura commoner. He introduces himself to us thus-

I’m a non-entity- Invisible, powerless and negligible.No epic will ever be written about me. I have suffered both Ravana and Rama- the hero and the villain or the villain and the hero. When the stories of great men are told, my voice maybe too feeble.

Yet, spare me a moment and hear my story, for I am Bhadra, the Asura, and my life is the tale of the loser.

-Bhadra, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished

Though he calls himself ‘a non-entity’, Bhadra is quite pivotal to the story. Not only does he appear at decisive moments of the story, but he also functions as the third-eye whose sole purpose in life is to survive inspite of the many disappointments, betrayals and humiliations thrown at him. To us he adds a different dimension to the story by being the all-seeing-eye. He is representative of how the battle between the Devas and Asura has affected the Asura population. He is representative of what caste system, or any other discriminatory system of rules, can affect the lives of the population. He is representative of the hollowness of war and the trail of destruction it brings forth.

This book though fall into the genre of mythological fiction, but is socially and politically relevant. It raises serious questions on castism, racism and misogyny. By the end of this reasonably long book you will find yourself posing serious existential questions. This book made me question my concepts on victory and success. It made me question my concepts of a hero and a villain as this story has neither a hero nor a villain or maybe it has a hero and a villain in more than one character. It made me question morality and it sheds light over the distance between concepts like good and evil, God and mortal. It also shows you how the gender divide is the elephant in the room that you can’t ignore.

Rating : 4/5

Verdict: If you are anything like me, who loves mythology and its different interpretations, you have to read it one. But, expect to feel the wrath of failure, the sting of betrayal and heaviness of loss as you turn the last page. And, also, expect to question concepts that you have long taken for granted. Continue reading “Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished”