Arjun : Without a doubt - Book Review

Not another book on Mahabharata. I thought, when I saw the summary of this book. And yet, I was tempted to read it because, it was on Mahabharata. Mythology, as always, lures me to read it. And there, I clicked the button for BlogAdda's book giveaway. Thanks again for choosing me to do something I love. Reading and reviewing.

Though I was sceptical because the subject has already been dwelled up in the past, by various mediums. In the book forms, or the alternate versions of the epic written on point of view of Arjun. A few months back I started reading Anuja Chandramouli's version, which I left midway for unknown reasons. But still, I have a feeling that this is the character - who is not given justice, respect and fame he deserves. Arjun - despite of being the central hero, gets washed off in contemporary versions of the epic whenever it is told again and again. With that in mind, I started reading Arjun : Without a doubt by Dr Shinde Sweety.

At first, what catches the attention while reading this version is the writing style. Here, it is not told from a witness' point of view. Neither it is told as a version of historical tale. But here, it is like a biography. Full of monologues and telling things as they happen, in front of their eyes and around. Making this quite an interesting to read from the very first pages. Though I got confused (and was, till the second half) between the two characters. As the story unfolds with two protagonists telling their story. Arjun and his lady love Draupadi. It was tough to differentiate immediately identify which character is telling his/her tale. Thankfully, I came across a review that described the chapters starting with *** are as told by Draupadi. Phew, things were easy then.

And the fact is - this different styled telling of the tale is the most intersting facet of this book. And then, the author's selection of the events. Which events to be emphasized and which ones to be toned down to mere lines, because such events are so popular that needs not be retold. Even, some events that are originated despite of the fact they are just myths. Like the one popular myth we have been hearing. Kunti did not know what Arjun brought to the hut, and told to share Draupadi among all five brothers. While the actual tale, is totally opposite. How could she order in such a way despite that fact she already knew it was not mere thing? Another major event, yet again involving Draupadi. The famous 'cheer haran' in the court of Hastinapur. The version Sweety tells us, seems more believable then the one which we are hearing since childhood. Here, the author shows the power of woman. Who can transform to Goddess Kali when she is assaulted and insulted. Not a silent delicate and helpless one, but a fierce warrior who can finish up the things at the same moment.

Choice of characters is the clever thing here. I could not get enough of whenever Draupadi and Arjun get confronted. We get to peep into their life. How it would have been for a couple bound by rules and exiles. Despite the fact Arjun won her hand and being the only one who hopelessly loved her - he can't even meet her alone till the eighth year since their marriage.  And during those eight years how his exile forms his life like none other.

By the time the book reaches its last quarter, you are bowled by awesomeness how the war is described. And even the aftermaths and lives of the survivors. Moreover, the bonus 20 pages of analysis by Sweety, that talks about all the ifs and buts and myths and connections. The summary is just as good as the whole journey the book takes.

Overall, this makes a worthy read for those who love this epic. For its central characters of Arjun and Draupadi and for the tales that are not told every now and then.

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Ramayana The Game Of Life : Shattered Dreams - Book Review

Why 14 years? Not 10, not 15, but why specific figure of 14 years of exile Rama has to go for? Have you ever thought about it? Here, you will have the answer. Moreover, the questions that are almost unanswered, like how the city of Ayodhya reflected the parting of their beloved Rama? Was Kaikeyi really an evil queen from the start? Why Manthra played the role of a traitor? All this and more, I found in this second installment of Game Of Life series written by Shubha Vilas. Shattered Dreams - the second part of the Ramayana series tells the story starting from the announcement of coronation to the initial days of the 14 year old exile in the forest.
Taking help of Valmiki Ramayan and the other versions of this great epic, Shubha  takes you to that era when most virtuous King once ruled the world. The King, Rama. It is indeed an interesting take on Ramayana to make it accessible to younger generation with occasionally sprinkled wisdom in the footnotes. Even in review of the first book I had noted this. That not just some interesting trivia, but words of wise men are there making your reading more immersive.
Rarely I have read any editions of Ramayana that goes so much into details about the other characters as well, other than Rama and Sita. Here, they have a less exposure compared to other character. Even the later one, Sita, has hardly any notable sequence. On the other hand, here we have detailing about each small person who played key roles at various stages. Be it the evil hunchbacked Manthra, or the ever beautiful queen Kaikeyi. Even the charioteer Sumantra is given so detailed attention, the presence of them hardly go unnoticed.
One beautiful aspect of the writing of the book is how the author has used the expletives. Be it describing inimitable beauty of Rama, or the occasional glances of Rama and Sita. Or the description of beautiful creations of nature. The rivers and the forests. Everything is depicted so beautifully that it comes alive in front of us. Leave only the goody goody things. But the remorse of the brothers, grief of the parents and moans of the citizens of Ayodhya - on losing their beloved sun prince Rama, does let you go with the flow. Only to make you wonder how great a man must be to have such an inimitable image in people's hearts. Another thing I loved about how the characters of Lakshmana and Bharata are developed. Both, bound by their unwritten duty to elder brother. Both taking vows just because their brother is facing hardships.
And not just Rama, but the opening chapters also takes you on the journey to the past. The past when the Ikshvaku dynasty had a King named Nemi, who later on named Dashratha. How a person got transformed from Dasagriva to Ravana. How Ravana got encounter with the god of death - Yama himself. A collage of absolutely interesting backstories gets you hooked. And despite the fact the stories we already know, there is always something new to know about.
So isn't there anything that I disliked? Well, there is. But a personal choice of course. That at places the learnings go in much detailed mode. At places it hinders flow of the story. But still gives out very important lessons. Be it the Mission tests, the virtues, the anarthas, true communication and more. Words that makes you go think, ponder about the things around.
And that's what a book should do, right? Shattered Dreams does exactly that. And full marks to the author Shubha Vilas for taking the age old epic to this new level. Thank you for bringing those stories alive again which were there somewhere in granny's love, in age old books in our cupboards, in Amar Chitra Katha books.

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The Aryavarta Chronicles - Kurukshetra : Book Review

These are the stories one can never get tired of. Each of us have grown up listening, watching and reading stories of Mahabharata. The past, often glorius, often bloody. The politics, rooted in each individual. Virtues and bravado. Mahabharata has it all. No matter how many times its retold, it doesn't lose its charm. Here, Krishna Udaysankar comes with her own version of the epic. Third book in The Aryavarta Chronicles series - Kurukshetra tells the tale that starts on the brink of the greatest war ever fought. On the red soil of battlefields of Kurukshetra, who and what led the forces to victory, who played invisible role in making Aryavarta a dream come true.

Actually, this is my first in the trilogy. Earlier I had seen and thought of reading first two books in this series. But somehow couldn't get my hands on untill this one offered by Blogadda. (Add to this, I never mind reading a series of books, starting backwards. Even LOTR was the book, which I read final episode first, then the other two ;)). Despite the fact I was reading last chapter in the tale, It didn't feel like one. Though it took some pages to get accustomed to the writer's style. Because, she doesn't spoon feed the facts and makes you want to think the scenario from the other angles as well.

Kurukshetra - starts off with those meetings in the background. The happenings around the states of Hastina and Matsya. How the war is being set up with role of Govinda in it. Gathering forces and supoort from other states which initially were supportive to Hastina and Syoddhan. But how Govinda rolls his dice and gets them in Dharma's stride. Interesting politics and alliances happens. While on the other hands, we get to see how lives of unsung heroes like Shikandin, Dhrustadhymn, Hidimbya and the second generation of many kings comes into light.

Writing style of Krishna is interesting. She doesn't reveal the ongoings in traditional way. But with less dialogues, more emphasis on the strategic actions. For a first timer like me, it took really a good time to get familiar with it. The complexity is notable and it actually gets you abosorbed in it. Interestingly, the story emphasize on portraying all the 'magic' and 'miracle' with background of science. So there, you do have reason behind the famous eclipse, reason behind the magical 'astras'. Even, Shikhandin here, is not a character with feminine qualities. Instead, he is a great warrior infusing great strength among the soldiers. Even biggest names like Dron and Syoddhan takes him very seriously. Another character, Abhimanyu, gets a deserving spotlight here. From his role to pre-war strategic alliance, to his role as a lover. The writer innovatively tells the tale which we don't hear much in any other version. Even, we get to see Ashwattama in action like anyone else. Being a complex character, he gets humble attention in the story. Most of the part is dedicated to 18 days long battle (obviously) and the writer paints the red picture perfectly with her words.  Things go really interesting towards the climax and ends fabulously.

Though I won't say its an absolutely perfect rendition I have ever read. Sometimes the detailed paragraphs and monologues make it difficult to cop up with. Also, the name changes here - Duryodhan, Karna, Yudhistir, Arjun, Krishna - all are here with their other names. Agree there must be a back story / reason for this in past books. But somehow we are accustomed to read only those names, and that confuses in opening parts.

Those minor complaints apart, Kurukshetra does live up the tagline it bears - The epic as it was never told before. Highly recommended to everyone, for the style, for the angle the epic is projected here.


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The Mahabharata Quest - The Alexander Secret : Book Review

Too many co-incidents happening. First when I started reading a lot about mythology, I came across Devdutt's Shikhandi. Then Blogadda came up with 7 Secrets of Goddess. That one, had a chapter about Gods from various parts of the world. Majorly, Greek one. That made me curious to dig more into the subject. And just when I started doing that, Blogadda came up with this (although fiction) one, The Mahabharata Quest : The Alexander Secret. Written by Christopher C Doyle, this thriller is based on the events ranging from 334 BC to present day. Interestingly weaving in the secret of Mahabharata into Greek legends of Zeus and Alexander. I immediately jumped in for this book. (As till now, reading a hefty amount of myths made me want to escape to fiction once again).

And Doyle didn't disappoint me as I expected it to be an engaging affair. After a mysterious prologue, the story starts with an excavation site at Greece. Continuing the team from previous adventure, Vijay, Radha, Alice, Colin and Imran gets tangled in yet another secret. A secret they couldn't think can be connected in this way. A secret that has twists and revelations. (Though I have the previous book lying on my shelf, I don't think reading this book directly will harm. Nothing connected between the two except some sentences referencing to previous book).

The research of Doyle shows at many parts of the book. Despite of being a fiction, it holds a lot of authentic and honest amount of writing that makes you awestruck. The route of Alexander during his march towards Indus, the ongoings in Greek politics and even the detailed description of viruses, bacterias, organisms and even DNA and RNA. So authentic it is and not written just for the sake of it. Though the fact is, the medical description made me lose the attention, distracting from the flow of the story, of course it was needed to be there.

As mythological-fiction is becoming one of my favorite genre by the time, this one is definitely has that intriguing plot. Making you think what lies ahead for the team. For reserved Vijay, for courageous Radha and supportive Alice and Colin. Making you curious about how the riddles get solved one by one. The writing style of Doyle is compelling. It holds your attention most of the time without deviating to silly details, dialogues or monologues. And again, I would like to mention, the research and timing how each chapter from past is placed. Right incident at right time. No 'flashback' kinda chapter for events of past, and not even overdone now-and-then pieces of past. Just perfect balance. And by the time you reach towards climax, you yourself get into search mode. I actually started Google-ing things which one of the character did in the story. The unusual backdrop for the climax adds more effectiveness.

All in all, this is a really commendable effort by author Christopher C Doyle. The Mahabharata Quest needs to be read for the stunning amount of research went into it. Smooth connecting links between Greek and Indian myths. And the thrills ! Go for it.

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PK : Music Review

Ajay-Atul's Tharki Chokro is as functional as a Rajasthani track can be. With all the deja vu, it still works well with catchy title loop. While childish Nanga Punga Dost makes an interesting listen with its violins. Lovely short violin tune repeats thru the track making it stuck in head sound. What is more interesting about these two songs is its lyrics. Getting our curiosity higher for the storyline.

Next set of songs are nice change from regular set of singers these days. Shaan's Chaar Kadam with Shreya is that typical-Moitra-Love-ballad-template. And I am not complaining there. Next is Sonu with Shreya. Making a fun duet in Love is a waste of time. Reminding of Pal Pal (Lage Raho...) though. Amitabh Varma's mushy words with a twist makes it more fun. But Sonu's next disappoints. Bhagwan hai kahan re tu is rather an ordinary, strictly situational track. Similarly, PK Dance theme. Lastly Dil Darbadar by Ankit Tiwari - feels totally out of place. No where it contains the theme of rest of the album.

Barring two tracks and despite template-ized sounds, PK works well in the borders of the movie. PK will work more effectively after watching the movie perhaps.

My Picks : Love is a waste of time, Chaar Kadam 

PK Music review, shantanu moitra, ajay, atul, aamir khan, ankit tiwari, rajkumar hirani, alien aamir.

7 Secrets of the Goddess : Book Review

Earlier, when I was busy reading the most popular mythological fiction trilogy, I sidelined Devdutt Pattnaik thinking 'he is just another writer who wants to cash in the increasing popularity of mythology'. Extremely wrong I was. I felt so when I read his latest 'Shikhandi' and awed by the fact how satisfying the experience can be while reading his works. Co-incidently Blogadda came up with this giveaway I couldn't resist. 7 Secrets of Goddess - by Devdutt Pattnaik is extremely rich and informative, almost falling in 'Refernce' genre. 

In times when we are still keep talking about women empowerment, the writer takes us back to the times of Vedas and Puranas when Female domination was seen in altogether different way. When she is Lakshmi, she empowers Indra - the king of Gods. When she is Kali - she empowers Shiva, God of the Gods. And when she is Sita, she is rather tamed and support avatar of Vishnu, Rama. The scenarios changed, so is the role of female - the Goddess. Devdutt takes help of various scriptures, poster and calendar arts, temple idols and even the folklores. Weaving together, he smoothly presents his own point of view. His own dissection about how the perception changed from BCE to CE. From Bible to Tantra. Talking about Bible, in the extremely details opening chapter, writer wins you over with awe inspiring details and connections from various corners of the world. Including the story of creation of the land of Japan, Greek mythology and Egyptian mysteries. 

Personally, it felt like I am a child again, while reading this. I remember visiting my ancestors' home back in village, where all the copies of Puranas lie there in cupboard. I used to dust off them and enjoy the illustrations and the tales (whatever little I could understand). Skanda Purana, Brahmavaivarta, Shiva and Bhagvat Purana, is all I can remember. Pattnaik lured me to revisit those Puranas again, as now after reading his works I realized how rich our literature is. 

The real highlight of this book is how each left page has illustrated information with inputs from the writer. Some unique and unseen pictures to the most common ones which we regularly see but ignore. For example, numerous times I had seen Bahuchar Mata's picture but never thought who the horse-rider behind her, is. Now I know he was her husband ! Also, how Durga has various forms, most of them are created from simple piece of rock ! The excellent print quality and bigger-than-normal size of font, and the book adds more premium value to the contents. The pictures make the book really a worthy of lifetime keep. 

Have had complaints from people who overlooked this book and passed it on saying 'it is using sex to sensationalize'. I disagree. It is 'us', the so-called sophisticated people who has made it a big deal. When you are talking about feminism, women, creation and pro-creation; you have to talk about sex. After all that is a part of life cycle you can't deny. Our ancestors never shied of such things, but it is us who took censorship in our hand and made everyone read what looked 'good' and made us 'happy' that we have 'clean sanskruti'. 

Keeping that cribbing aside. After reading just two of his works, (and Jaya, lying on my shelf) Devdutt Pattnaik, is really a writer worth following. Surprising how he served a total different industry till now. But have taken turn on this way. Re-telling the things we keep hearing since our birth. And 7 Secrets of Goddess can be an excellent start of this journey. It is worth every page. A must read.

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