A quick note on the book before proceeding to the review :- Ajaya- Roll of the Dice is the first book of the Ajaya series. The novel is a retelling of the epic Mahabharata, as told from Suyodhana’s perspective. The sequel of the book is Ajaya 2 – Rise of Kali, which was published in August 2015 and is available for read, both online and in stores.
THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man.
At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all.
And in the wings:
* Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean.
* Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
* Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land.
* Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more.
* Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
* Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.
Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…
Through ‘Ajaya’, the author has taken up the painstaking, albeit adventurous task of retelling the renowned epic ‘Mahabharatha’. The story begins with the picture of a rather distraught, young Suyodhana hiding from a sturdy and rebellious Bhima, who, as was his usual hobby, is out on his trail to chide his cousin for no particular reason. From the very opening scene, the author succeeds in conveying the essence of his bold and ground breaking venture- A Mahabharata narrated in a manner that would lend voice to the vanquished souls.
The job at hand of reviewing the book is not easy. For one, the formidable tale of Mahabharata is something which has been etched in our hearts since the moment, as a child, we yearned for stories, the synopsis of which being the Pandavas with the help of Krishna winning the war against the Kauravas. The legend would leave any one dubious about the subtleties and the methods involved, but then, we were taught, rather it was hard wired in to our minds to believe that to do one’s Dharma was what mattered, and not the over emphasis on the dainty threads of emotional connect, which are sure to disintegrate one day. We were taught to focus on the bigger picture, to study it and to dissect it for the betterment of our own independent lives.
The author, with his spectacular cadence of storytelling has created an entirely different version of the epic. The loopholes in the epic have been nitpicked to weave sub plots out of those weak, marshy spots in the most astute of manners. One might disagree to the accusations strewn against the characters we otherwise consider heroes, but then one is also forced to be amazed by the deftness of the author’s mind plays. I personally read the book, keeping my mind and heart wide open, prepared to let the words flown in, to let it satiate the ravenous reader in me and not be flinched by the audacity of the author’s unrestrained vision. The Duryodhana that common man knows of is one dimensional, highlighted by monochromic shades of black. In this book, the author has unveiled the multiple layers of Duryodhana’s personality, presenting before the reader a multi dimensional character, bringing to the limelight his compassion, his eye for romanticism, his sympathy towards the downtrodden, his despise towards the rotten caste system that prevailed in those times and his unrelenting passion to follow his heart. Do we know if those were true? More importantly, do we know if those were untrue? The book is the author’s attempt to insinuate deeper, to tread beyond those questions to offer the reader his share of answers and he does that with immense flair and élan.
The reader might be taken aback at certain places where the acts of certain characters, especially that of Pandavas,Kunti, Drona and Lord Krishna himself are sketched such that one is prompted to throw them under the scrutinising stares of one’s rationale and judgements. Those incidents are not something we haven’t heard of before and we know a few of those acts served a greater purpose too, but few readers might find it mildly jarring to have those focussed up on. As I said before, it is not easy to convince the reader why I liked the book, when I myself am an ardent admirer of Mahabharata. Perhaps, the fact that the writer in me was conquered by the visionary would serve as the best explanation for the same.
The review wouldn’t be complete without opining about the quality of writing, would it? The prose is undoubtedly engaging, with frequent references to the nature and its metaphoric enigma enriching the story at the right places. The narration is brilliantly equipped with intriguing content to take the pace forwards sans hiccoughs. The conversations are even witty at places, especially when the author sketches the camaraderie between Suyodhana and Ashwathama. The lexicon stands out and that, along with the fluidity of the prose and the amount of research that has gone in to the making of this remarkable work completely enthralled the reader in me.
I would definitely look forward to more of the author’s works. Perhaps, a literary fiction before long?
A Few Quotable QuotesFrom The Book:
“When our schools fail to teach our children what they should know, other schools take their place and teach different lessons, which we may not like.”
“Never associate any evil with a group. Hate their sins, but not the people.”
‘Life is a gamble. You do not know how the dice will fall. But once they have, how you move the pieces is in your hands.”
About The Author: (In his own words)
Details Of The Book:
Title: Ajaya: Roll Of The Dice
Author: Anand Neelakantan
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Year: 2015
Price: Rs. 349
Buy the book online :
Goodreads Page: Here
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.