book review, Books, Saturday Specifics, Uncategorized

Menaka’s Choice- Book Review: Saturday Specifics

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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                                                                      

Genre: Fiction

Buy the Book Online:

Flipkart

Amazon

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.

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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.

book review, Books, Saturday Specifics, Uncategorized

Book Review: Ajaya-Roll Of The Dice :Saturday Specifics

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My favourite companions- A good book, a warm cup of tea and of course my laptop that smiles at me invitingly every time I am inspired to write

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 Kaliwhich was published in August 2015 and is available for read, both online and in stores.

The Blurb:

  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.

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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…

My Review: 

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?

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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.” 

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About The Author: (In his own words)


I was born in a quaint little village called Thripoonithura, on the outskirts of Cochin, Kerala. Located east of mainland Ernakulam, across Vembanad Lake, this village had the distinction of being the seat of the Cochin royal family. However, it was more famous for its hundred odd temples; the various classical artists it produced and its music school. I remember many an evening listening to the faint rhythm of Chendas from the temples and the notes of the flute escaping over the rugged walls of the school of music. Gulf money and the rapidly expanding city of Cochin have, however, wiped away all remaining vestiges of that old world charm. The village has evolved into the usual, unremarkable, suburban hell hole, clones of which dot India. Growing up in a village with more temples than was necessary, it was no wonder that the Ramayana fascinated me. Ironically, I was drawn to the anti-hero of the epic – Ravana, and to his people, the Asuras. I wondered about their magical world. But my fascination remained dormant for many years, emerging only briefly to taunt and irritate my pious aunts during family gatherings. Life went on… I became an engineer; joined the Indian Oil Corporation; moved to Bangalore; married Aparna and welcomed my daughter Ananya, and my son, Abhinav. But the Asura emperor would not leave me alone. For six years he haunted my dreams, walked with me, and urged me to write his version of the story. He was not the only one who wanted his version of the story to be told. One by one, irrelevant and minor characters of the Ramayana kept coming up with their own versions. Bhadra, who was one of the many common Asuras who were inspired, led and betrayed by Ravana, also had a remarkable story to tell, different from that of his king. And both their stories are different from the Ramayana that has been told in a thousand different ways across Asia over the last three millennia. This is then Asurayana, the story of the Asuras, the story of the vanquished.

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Details Of The Book: 

Title: Ajaya: Roll Of The Dice

Author: Anand Neelakantan

Publisher: Leadstart Publishing 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 456

Publication Year: 2015

Price: Rs. 349

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Buy the book online :  

AmazonHere     Flipkart: Here

Goodreads Page: Here

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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.