I started writing book reviews on this blog around four years back. I remember my grand father gifting me a notebook when I was a little girl, if my memory serves right, exactly eighteen years back, suggesting that I write down my thoughts, criticisms and reviews on the books I read. In hindsight, I believe that it was he who instilled in me in the passion to fall in love with books and indirectly the constant urge to express my opinions, to be saved forever in black and blue on the blank pages of the notebook. After reviewing a few books I preferred, the blog slowly started sliding into the professional book review niche where I would review books on request. And now after so long, I am undertaking the fulfilling process of reviewing a book, sans a request. I read the book out of curiosity and I am reviewing it out of the unmistakable compulsion of my own inner terrains.
So much for the prelude. The book I am about to talk about now is ‘Menaka’s Choice’ authored by the prolific Kavita Kane. Let me confess before hand that I picked up the book more owing to the inspiring bio profile of the author more than anything else. Yes, the theme centred around, Menaka, the Apsara who is mentioned randomly when narrated The Ramayana intrigued me for its novel subject, but, I have to admit that my observative eyes never roam past an author who is qualified and has made a mark in the realm of literature, without taking a moment to imbibe the details of the book he/she has authored. ( This doesn’t inadvertently imply that I prefer such books always; rather it has to be understood that I wouldn’t, in most probability, want to miss such a book)
And that was how I picked up ‘Menaka’s Choice’.
Do I regret the decision? Was I wrong in judging the book by such unique pre requisites?
You would have an answer as you glide through the review. I promise.
First of all, the protagonist of the book is Menaka- the sensuous Apsara who, like any other resident of Amravati, the Kingdom of Devas, belonged to Indra as widely believed. To fall in love, to marry the person she loves and to give birth to a child who was the fruit of their ever lasting love remained sins which were largely criticised and condemned, not just by Indra, but ubiquitously by all. Contrary to the sturdy rules and stipulations, Menaka falls in love with Vishwavasu, the king of Gandharvas and bores a daughter. What follows is a cascade of trials, tribulations, ploys and tactics that revolve around Menaka, who is eventually send down to Earth to seduce, Kaushik, the king of Kanyakubja, who emerges a potential threat to Indra and his kingdom for his greed for celestial power. The king is on a diligent journey to procure the title of Brahmarishi, the most coveted amongst the Rishis, much instigated by the skills and awe inspiring capabilities of the Rishi Vasishth who bemused him with his powers and hence indirectly put him to shame.
Will Kaushik fall prey to Menaka’s bait or will she fall witness to the harrowing tentacles of his revolting curse? Will Menaka lose Viswavasu forever? Will Kaushik finally yearn the title of Brahmarishi? Or will Indra disintegrate once and for all, Kaushiks’ focussed meditations so that he would keep Heaven safe, unperturbed and unchallenged, from the desirous glances of a mere mortal?
‘Menaka’s Choice’, in one word, is multidimensional. It implicitly dwells on various topics that are highly relevant in today’s world. Menaka is not exactly a feminist, but she is a strong willed woman, or more specifically a fighter, who would go to any length to suffice the whispers of her heart. She is unconventional, bold, beautiful, confident, outspoken, incandescent, vulnerable, fearless, dedicated, righteous, astute- all rolled into one. She stands up for the people she loves. She stands up for herself. She fights injustice. She lashes out against the doers of immoral deeds with such certitude, never for once tempted to sail with the flow. She lives by her rules. She is never shrewd, nor is she conniving. But she sure knows how to make people pay the price for their vices in the least hazardous of ways. You must be wondering how I could write such a detailed character sketch of Menaka? There lies the author’s impeccable dexterity.
The book starts off slowly, albeit intriguingly. The pages are enriched with writing of superlative quality. The lexicon is remarkable. The subtle emotions are portrayed brilliantly, which in turn successfully acts to convince the reader. The conversations are detailed extensively, especially, the scene where Menaka confronts Indra about the fate of Vasu and another one where she locks Indra in a check mate with her oratory acumen. Those scenes, unquestionably, are my most favourite parts. The dialogues ooze vitality. They never lose charm mid way and these are the assertive reasons why I admire the talent of the author.
The book is alluringly sensuous at places too, which have been written in an equally aesthetic manner. The plot doesn’t skew towards unnecessary pathways and the focus is maintained mostly on Menaka and rightly, her ground breaking choices. A few editing glitches in between, thankfully, didn’t hinder the reading process any which way. I hope sincerely that those are rectified in the following editions.
‘Menaka’s Choice’ is undoubtedly a rewarding experience. Let you not be speculative, but grab a copy and be addicted at the earliest.
Details of the book:
Title: Menaka’s Choice
Author: Kavita Kane
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Number of Pages: 290
Price: Rs. 295
Buy the Book Online:
About the Author: Kavita Kané is the best-selling author of Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen and Sita’s Sister. She started her career as a journalist and is now a full-time novelist. She is a postgraduate in English literature and mass-communications and a self-confessed aficionado of theatre and cinema. Married to a mariner, she is a mother to two teenaged daughters and currently lives in Pune along with Dude, the overfriendly Rottweiler, Chic the friendly Spaniel and Babe, the unfriendly cat.
P.S: This post is tagged with ‘Saturday Specifics’, a sub section of this blog where I put up something creative- a story, poem, haiku, Flash Fiction or a Book Review.