This is my first book which I finished in 2018, and I am really glad that it is. An epi c saga like Mahabharata has been retold by many. We have seen time and again multiple interpretations of the same. So when I opened Chatterjee’s book, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything different to what has already been told before. Chatterjee’s Yudhisthira is not an epic, it’s actually a story, story of a man, his emotions, his life and the discourse of his life based on his decisions. Chatterjee’s interpretation of Mahabharata through Yudhisthira’s eyes is unique. He has very successfully turned this mythological larger than life character into a blood and flesh man.
There’s no point in telling you how the story goes, because in all probability you already know it by heart since the age of five. Then the question arises now is then why should you read this book?
Firstly, read it for the sheer pleasure of a fluid narrative which follows a man’s journey through love, life, war and his unshakable dharma. Secondly, read it for the characters, which are drawn in a similar fashion as to Yudhishthira, by that I mean in a manner where they feel real. It’s especially interesting because you already know the character motivations and actions they would take beforehand. So you can delve into the characterization better, without losing time on understanding their motives. Thirdly read it because you will find many facets of Mahabharata told in a completely different manner. Last but not the least; read it for the editing, Indrani Ganguly, the editor for the book is in her own element. If you have read other books edited by Ganguly, you will be aware of her style of crisp editing without over-shadowing the author. This book at her hands turns sharp, as it is needed for a story as majestic as this.
I like books with simple language as a reader, and I am thankful to the editor for keeping the author’s style intact without forcing it to be a literary gem with extensive showcasing of the language, which will make this book accessible to readers of all age groups. I mostly dislike the complicated approach towards narration and use of big words unnecessarily. If I wanted a grammar or a vocabulary lesson I would pick up Wren & Martin or a Thesaurus for that matter. So I am very pleased with the fact that Chatterjee focused on what actually matters the most, the plot structure and the story.
This is not one of those books which you will pick up and read front to back within hours, this will need your time. You will have to set it down from time to time to let the magnanimity sink in. I as a reader would request you to take your time with this one. And maybe go back to it a few months later again. There’s a certain kind of profoundness hidden very skilfully under a simple language and a straightforward narrative. Although I must add here, some war scenes are pretty graphic, which might irk some readers.
Another great book from the publishing desk of Readomania, pick it up, if you want a story of a real man, of an epic character told in the language of the people.
I would like to leave you with a few lines from the book which sums up the character of Yudhisthira for me, ‘Draupadi’s fall and my secret reaction made me aware that in spite of peeling off several layers of humanity, the very core of me was still throbbing with banal, familiar worldliness. I was still a human – a too ordinary one at that!’
Please Note: This is not a commissioned review
We, with our large army, reached Kurukshetra quite early in the morning from the west side with our faces to the east. The Kaurava army had not yet arrived. The new sun was just some distance into the sky from the horizon, beaming away serene rays of light. The morning looked too good to make anybody wary of any ominous prospect.
I was feeling sad that such a beautiful day was soon going to be completely marred by a senseless holocaust throwing party to the vultures sailing up in the sky.
Suddenly I noticed a thin, continuous black line along the horizon. It had not been there only a little earlier. The line was not static but moving. It was slowly broadening into a black strip or band. I now heard a faint noise, somewhat similar to the roar of a tumultuous sea, coming from a great distance. The black strip had already become broad enough and the noise much louder. Now we understood what it was. It was the enormous, roaring, clamouring Kaurava army marching towards us with the rhythm
of drumbeats. The closer they came, the louder the hubbub became. Soon, the din became deafening. I could now vaguely see the people standing upfront, despite the dust. Then with an ear-splitting command and the final beat of kettle-drums, the
army came to a halt.
When the mist caused by the dust faded away a bit, I could first recognise Pitamaha Bheeshma and Acharya Drona, standing in the front of the army on the other side of the ground. Their expressions were complex. Then I saw a visibly sad Uncle Shalya who ended up being on the wrong side. Usually amiable Kripa and Bahlika wore grim, anxious looks. Bhurishrava lowered his head to avoid eyecontact. Ashwatthama smiled faintly. Jayadrath twisted his face in contempt. That scoundrel must be remembering the ordeal he had had to endure at our hands. Duryodhana and Shakuni both looked
unusually serious and sombre, the former without his notorious overbearance and the latter his wry, sinister humour. Duhshasana was with his usual
poker face, though. He was too dumb to put up any other expression. Karna was not there. I saw the bright-looking Vikarna. I saw all other brothers of Duryodhana. I saw Yuyutsu, the sensible stepbrother of Duryodhana. Almost everybody present in the
front rank was known to me. Some of them were venerable preceptors, some my very own kinsmen and some former friends. Those differently aged men were central to my childhood memories. The last time I had seen all of them together was perhaps
at the rice ceremony of Duryodhana’s son Laxman in Hastinapura. How joyfully we had celebrated that day together and all those warriors glowering at us now with murder in their minds had looked so different that day!
Exactly what had changed between us since then? Wherefrom had this terrible malice come into being?
I felt I was seeing countless images of my own face in the Kaurava line-up, as if I was standing in front of thousands of mirrors. I momentarily felt a debilitating numbness in my limbs. I started to realise what this war was actually going to mean! I would be required to defeat none but myself in this war and should I win, my own history would
be desecrated. This war, most certainly, would be survived by only some losers.
I felt a little ashamed for getting sloshy at the time of action. I quickly tried to see Krishna. Arjuna and Krishna were positioned far away from me. I saw them moving towards the Kauravas slowly. What were they up to? Their chariot stopped in between
the two armies. Arjuna stood up. Now I understood he wanted to have a closer look at our enemies.
But what happened to Arjuna? Why did he drop his Gandiva? Why did he sit down in the chariot burying his face in two palms? Was he feeling unwell?
Krishna had stood up meanwhile. I saw him put his hand on Arjuna’s shoulder and say something to him. Arjuna was shaking his head violently, evidently revealing his deep reluctance for something. Krishna seemed to be trying to console him. Then Krishna
took his hand off Arjuna’s shoulder and sat on the driver’s seat facing Arjuna. Arjuna was looking at him. Krishna was probably saying something to him. I could not hear them because of the noise all around. From a distance, I could understand that Krishna was delivering a lecture and Arjuna listening to him with all his attention. But was it the right place for a discourse? The two armies were getting restless.
‘What the hell are they doing, brother? I am dying to start thrashing the Kauravas and here these two have started a private conference!’— an extremely annoyed Bheema asked impatiently. Even Dhrishtadyumna and Drupada were getting impatient. The restlessness was precipitating into the Kaurava side as well. I noticed Duryodhana rush his chariot towards Bheeshma’s and indignantly discuss something with him pointing at Arjuna and Krishna. The soldiers of both the armies started fidgeting and flustering.
But the restive multitude surprisingly calmed down quickly, on its own. All eighteen akshauhini (eleven of Duryohana and seven of us) men stood breathlessly staring at the duo with rapt attention. Perhaps everybody was identifying his own internal struggle with Arjuna’s. Perhaps everybody wanted Arjuna’s weakness to prevail over meaningless bravery and wanted to go back home all smiles with a nice story to tell his beloved. Arjuna’s sudden mawkishness and his momentary abhorrence for fighting seemed to represent, for once, the very conscience of the monstrous assemblage at
Kurukshetra. Arjuna personified the last bastion of human dilemma before succumbing to a dreadful craziness.
But Krishna was in complete control of the situation, as usual. From a distance, I wanted to read their body languages. Krishna was apparently preaching something to Arjuna with animated gestures. Arjuna stared unblinkingly at him, evidently spellbound. I could not hear them, but it became clear that Krishna’s rhetorics were taking effect on Arjuna. He was evidently getting back his poise and his confusion was fast receding.
Krishna must have been telling Arjuna why he should fight his enemies, even if they were his blood-relatives. This particular war was not in conflict with dharma; rather it would help enforce dharma. This great Armageddon happened to be the much awaited dharmayuddha the world was in dire need for. But how did Krishna drive home his point when Arjuna, his disciple, was so down?
Krishna’s preaching seemed to have been over. There was a distinct change in Arjuna’s posture. He looked menacing now, and started stringing the enormous Gandiva. Krishna was spectacularly successful in changing not only Arjuna’s mood, but also the general disposition of numberless soldiers arrayed across the ground in peculiar formations. They did not know what went on between Arjuna and Krishna, nor did they need to. They only witnessed that Arjuna had been apparently convinced. That was enough for those common, simple men to shed their own weaknesses. Krishna
not only removed the confusion of a certain man, but actually did away with the general skepticism regarding the legitimacy of this particular war in a
most evocative manner.
Though the Kuru family survived on Vyasadeva’s seeds, he never belonged to the house. Moreover, being an ascetic, he was even exempted from obligations of the complicated dynamics of human relationships. This armed him with a ruthless dispassion and he could go on telling his stories with stoical detachment, free from any bias and uncontaminated by quintessential human dilemmas.
But had any of his characters given his own account of the story, would not that have lent a different dimension to the events seducing ordinary mortals like us to identify, if not compare, our private crises with those of our much celebrated heroes?
The Unfallen Pandava is an imaginary autobiography of Yudhisthira, attempting to follow the well-known story of the Mahabharata through his eyes. In the process of narrating the story, he examines his extremely complicated marriage and relationship with brothers turned co-husbands, tries to understand the mysterious personality of his mother in a slightly mother-fixated way, conducts manic and depressive evaluation of his own self and reveals his secret darkness and philosophical confusions with an innate urge to submit to a supreme soul. His own story lacks the material of an epic, rather it becomes like confession of a partisan who, prevailing over other more swashbuckling characters, finally discovers his latent greatness and establishes himself as the symbolic protagonist.
About the Author
Born in a suburban town in North 24 Parganas in West Bengal, in a family of academicians, Mallar Chatterjee’s childhood flame was mythology, especially the Mahabharat. The Unfallen Pandava is his debut novel. Mallar is a central government employee, presently posted in Delhi.
Yudhisthira – The Unfallen Pandava is available online at Amazon.
It’s a common notion amongst men that two women can’t cohabit the planet in peace, and there’s a counter argument that two women when left alone will start gossiping inevitably, even if they are strangers. Here’s the fun fact: both can happen. The women may tear each other down or may help each other grow. It’s just a matter of clicking- if it’s a friendship, based on love and mutual understanding, chances are that it will blossom a lifetime.
The relationships between a man and a woman can be complex and often men are known to emotionally shut down, leaving the woman to drown in her own nest, that is the time when she seeks the comfort of another woman, who possibly empathizes with her too. Women have a comforting nature, and this is the balm of friendship.
Women as friends gang up together, go out for parties, hang out at malls, catch up movies, and coexist happily, much unlike the myth: women quarrel. They may even be spirited enough to beat up the villains who trouble their fellow female friends. A gang of women strung together is a blessing- one possibly couldn’t understand the spirit of that friendship until they are a part of it.
It usually is the women against the world- and it might be endless sessions of gossips with pillow fights sprinkled, or it might be hours of ranting with a bottle of rum. It could be endless poetries stashed under the eyelashes of wet eyes, or might be obscenities muttered under stifled breaths. To be blessed with such friends who could die for you, is indeed being on the top of the world. Often it implies a healthy bonding over advice, cups of coffee, art and literature, and sometimes God forbid heavy doses of puns that would make anyone blush. Just broke your heart, or your boyfriend spoiled the day, or the kids are away, or general menstrual blues, your girlfriends always shine. The joy of talking about the world behind the world, is a luxury that only a few have experienced. Breaking all stereotypes and shattering all myths, the secret allegiance of women thrives. Have you pledged “till death do us part” to your girlfriends yet? If you haven’t, you should, as soon as you can. It’s you and them against the world, remember?
The name Jayant Kripalani is enough for anyone to say ‘Yes!’ to a guest blog post by him, and it is my utmost honour to host and present to you the story behind his upcoming book which is edited by the ace editor Indrani Ganguly, and is Published by Readomania.
Jayant Kripalani is an artist, writer, director, and a renowned film, television and stage actor, so automatically the question arises what made this brilliant multi-talented man pen this book? What’s the story behind it? So he answers the question himself in the post below.
Why did I start writing this set of short stories that became one long story? I don’t really know.
I was on way my back from somewhere by train and at Howrah Station a group of taxi drivers tried to extort a higher fare from me. This was before the time of pre paid taxi booths. Rather than shell out five times the fare I thought I’d take a bus. It was peak hour in the morning and though I did get a seat since the bus started from there, I hadn’t calculated the length of time I’d be sitting in the bus on the bridge. Forty five minutes of inching along later I heard a voice behind me say, “Aitaki Haora Bridge na Laora Bridge?”
I knew exactly what he meant.
I knew then that I had the beginning of a story.
“Where are you getting off?” I turned around and asked.
“High Court,” he replied.
By now we had reached the East end of the bridge. It still looked like we’d be on the bus for another 45 minutes.
“Walk?” I asked him.
“Let’s,” he said.
And that as they say was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
His name was Khokon. He lived in Santragachhi. And because of that immortal first line, I called the protagonist of my story Khokon. In the book though, the line belongs to his colleague Ashutosh.
Some time later, I overheard a group of people talking about saving a water body from some unscrupulous builder. Arun Lal the cricket player might have been a part of the group but I’m not sure. I started keeping tabs on them. Not because I was interested in saving the environment or even that small little lake.
I am not a crusader.
I hate getting involved with issues.
But if you live in Calcutta, even for a short while, trust me, you’ll get involved.
More power to the builder I thought after I first saw the lake if you can call brackish acres of sludge a lake.
What did interest me were the disparate lot of people, and some desperate ones among them, who were determined they were going to save a stagnant water body from becoming an office complex.Frankly in my opinion that lake had outlived its usefulness to be anything at all.
I didn’t give a damn what happened to the lake.
But over a period of time I did start worrying about the people. And of course fell hopelessly in love with them. Their wellbeing and their good health became a matter of great concern to me especially since I saw the array of ‘villains’ lined up against them.
So rather than concentrate on Builder v Helpless Citizen – enough stories had been written about them, I concentrated on their stories and their histories.
This is their story or should I say these are their stories. Some of the people are real; some of the people who come to their assistance are thinly disguised caricatures of people I admire; some are just people I met on buses and trams in my journeys across the bridge who wormed their way into the book.
And that is how this book got wrote.
CANTILEVERED TALES IS A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE, THEIR QUIRKS AND WHY THEY BECOME WHO THEY BECOME. AND LOTS OF LAUGHTER!
I overheard a group of people talking about saving a water body from some unscrupulous builder and started keeping tabs on them. Not because I was interested in saving the environment or even that small little lake. What did interest me were the disparate lot of people, and some desperate ones among them, who were determined that they were going to save a stagnant water body, which in my opinion had outlived its usefulness as anything at all, from becoming an office complex.
This is NOT a Builder v Helpless citizen epic. In fact that is the least important part of the book. This is about a group of inept people who you want to reach out and protect but you discover are more than capable of taking care of not just themselves, but of you too.
Jayant Kripalani is an Indian film, television and stage actor, writer and director. Known for his work in TV series like Khandaan, Mr Ya Mrs and Ji Mantriji, he graduated from Jadavpur University with a degree in English Literature.
He has played character roles in movies like Heat and Dust, Rockford, Jaane Tu. . .Ya Jaane Na, 3 Idiots and, most recently, Hawaizaade and The Hunger. He has directed and produced a number of films and is actively involved with theatre. He wrote the screenplay for Shyam Benegal’s film Well Done Abba. He is the author of the heartwarming and nostalgic New Market Tales, set in the historic New Market area of
Kolkata in the 1960s and 1970s. His recent foray into writing performance poetry has brought him acclaim in poetic circles around the country. When he is not in Calcutta, he is either fishing in Himachal, pfaffing in Bombay or being a beach bum in Goa.
Please note: This is a guest blog post and the views expressed are author’s own.
Thwarted Escape : An immigrant’s Wayward Journey – A Review
How do you review a book that is so close to your heart that you feel a maternal pride just looking at it?
How do you review a book that you have seen grow from a manuscript to a print edition?
How do you review a book that is written by an author, who is like a sister?
I guess there is no other way, but to be completely, utterly, honest about how I feel. I have been deferring writing a review for a long time now even though I finished the book about two months ago, the reason being every time I sat down to write words failed me. The book is so powerful in content, language, imagery, emotions that I felt that I will never be able to do justice to a piece of work like this.
The manuscript had been a Journey Awards recipient (2014), hosted by Chanticleer Reviews and Media, and also very recently been placed as Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival 2017 (Category: memoir/autobiography)
There is a beautiful foreword written by Dr. Santosh Bakaya, which impeccably describes the spirit of the book, which I would like to quote here, “We are there with her in her inner sojourns, and also there listening to the rumblings of her pent-up thunder.”
Lopamudra Banerjee’s Thwarted Escape is a memoir of her journey from a girl into a woman, from her own country to an unknown land, from being a mother to a motherless daughter, from a lover to a wife, all blending into one another. Her dreams and realities merge into this enchanting narrative to tell us about how she made through it all.
Her language is lucid, poetic, interspersed with a vocabulary that is both poignant and mesmerizing. Every line she writes feels like has been dipped in the ink of her soul and put into paper. This book is not for someone who is looking for a light and easy read. This is for the serious reader who is willing to invest time into the voyage of a woman’s life. It is for the readers who like to search their own soul for the answers missing from their lives.
Banerjee in her preface says, “Eight years later, when I look back at the day I started to shape this journey, I am overwhelmed by how reminiscence, self-interrogation, anger, hopelessness, despair and a childlike surrender to hope and empathy has given birth to this wayward journey.” and you can feel as you turn the pages the amount of hard work, pain and faith has gone into this book. this book is literally made from the blood and sweat of the author. Each chapter can be read as an individual essay from the author’s life or you could read the book in it’s entirety and be spellbound at the magnificent job the author has done with it.
It is a memoir, you have to read it yourselves to find how well you connect with it. I would recommend it to all readers who love beautiful language, poetic verses, the themes of alienation, immigration, feminism, adaptation, motherhood, womanhood, defiance against patriarchy to name a few.
I will leave you with a few lines from a favourite portion of mine, from the chapter Thwarted Escape
“I return to the chaos and bickering inside the quite confines of my parents’ home in Barrackpore, to see a broken fragment of my own being, still lurking behind the dark corners of the rooms I had left behind. I return as the dutiful daughter-in-law to a broken and scattered home of in-laws emerging in my life time and again, as a river with secret tides I am obliged to navigate. I return, time and again, to the absurdities of a Bengali household I had so despised and escaped years back. I come back to them, not as as the restless, rebel woman, simmering with existential questions, not as a demure bride who didn’t understand shameless traditions of adaptation in a strange family of people who spoke less, felt less. I come back, as a traveler in time, to feel my frazzled self, and to pick up my own scattered pieces and recognize the weightless limbo of a world that inhabits me now.”
I dare say this is not a book, it is a piece of art, own it.
Please Note: This is not a commissioned review
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