TITLE: Prem Purana- Mythological Love Stories
AUTHOR: Usha Narayanan
PUBLISHER: Penguin Random House India
GENRE: Fiction ( Mythological)
Stories of love and extraordinary devotion
No one is untouched by love, not even devas and asuras, kings and nymphs. And when they face life’s unexpected tribulations, their love also undergoes trials. Read how Ganesha took myriad forms to please Riddhi, Siddhi and Buddhi, how Ravana shared an unbreakable bond with his true love, Mandodari and how Nala and Damayanti’s relationship was tested till almost nothing remained.
Tormented by passion, wracked by betrayal, torn by the agony of separation, love in its many splendored forms is the origin of these incredibly endearing stories of Prem Purana.
Three characters from three realms, diverse in nature yet what makes them a part of this book titled ‘Prem Purana’ is that their heart beats with love for that is neither frivolous not soaked in lust. In fact it is pure love that drives their thoughts and actions. Split into three sections ‘Prem Purana’ deals with the love life of Ganesha’s love life, Mandodari’s love and Damyanti’s riddle. While Ganesha’s attempts at wooing Brahma’s daughters brought a smile to the face, Ravana’s attitude towards Mandodari and his extra- marital affairs in the latter part of the story had me virtually gritting my teeth. Nal Damyanti’s story though short when compared to the other two was like a dessert served at the end of a sumptuous meal, sweet and satisfying.
What took me by surprise?
1) Ganesha’s love life! I’ve always looked upon as the cute little God, the ‘vignahartha’ as a bachelor. So the story of his attempts to woo not one but three damsels came as a surprise. But then Indian Mythology is open to vast interpretation. So if you look at this story from another angle, you may not feel surprised. Isn’t Ganesha after all Buddhi, Riddhi and Siddhi all packaged into one? Yes, he is. So I guess he is wedded to these three virtues that make him the most popular of all Gods sacred to the Hindus.
2) The Secret of Mandodari’s daughter. I’ve never come across this one. But then I guess I’ve never given Mandodari much of a thought. It’s always been Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Ravan, Kumbhakaran and Meghnath.
Endowed with the gift for making the even the mundane witty and interesting, Usha Narayan weaves a magic of sorts with the characters especially in the first two sections of the book. One feels the events unfolding before one’s eyes, making one feel a part of the times and the venue the stories are set in. There are places where one can’t help but try suppress a good laugh and there are others where one feels bitter, wishing to knock some sense in the character.
The language, the style and the stories make the book a truly enjoyable read.
Is there something to take away from the book?
Yes, little nuggets of wisdom essential for a happy and peaceful existence
Unravel the puzzle that is the mysterious and misunderstood son of Mahadeva.
Kartikeya was born from the flames of a desperate need, an ardent desire and an utmost devastation. In him was distilled the terrible powers of Mahadeva, at its fiercest and most deadly. Although he fought many wars and slew many tyrants, his gifts to humanity have always been those of mercy, compassion and love. What makes this possible?
For Kartikeya, there have always been more questions than answers. Did he really walk away from his family over a piece of fruit? What about the women in his life—was he the ravisher he is at times accused of being, or the protector of women? Was he the violent warrior who revelled in bloodlust, or a gentle family man? What was his relationship with his more popular sibling, Ganesha?
Anuja Chandramouli weaves together myth, imagination and folklore while looking to answer these questions and recreates for modern readers the story of one of the most enigmatic gods—Kartikeya.
While the blurb gives an insight into the book what remains to be shared is what I felt about Author Anuja Chandramouli’s interpretation of the stories, the myths surrounding the lesser spoken brother of Ganesha i.e. Kartikeya and her style of writing. Well so here I go….
‘Kartikeya: The Destroyer’s Son’ provides a refreshing insight into the lesser known of the two sons of Lord Shiva. While the process of the birth of Kartikeya generated considerable heat scalding many, the expectation was that the subject of excitement himself ( Kartikeya) would in later years display a fiery nature. But is Kartikeya so?…..That’s for you to discover 🙂
The story though multi- layered, takes us on a journey that is far from bumpy. The various stories and sub- stories as well as the main characters and supporting ones are seamlessly interwoven together to give the reader an insight into the various facets of the six- headed God, his prowess, love-life and much more. However what actually stands out is the depiction of both, the Gods who it is believed, ‘lord’ over the three realms and are considered the embodiment of all that is good, as well as the Asuras who are generally seen as the epitome of all that is evil. Anuja Chandramouli has broken that myth. While arrogance, jealousy, treachery and ingratitude are the hallmark of Anuja’s Indra, his arch-rival the Asura King Soorapadma comes across one with a soft heart when it is a matter of his subjects and siblings. He is also an embodiment of humility and fair- play in comparison to Indra . While Soorapadma is ready to heed to sane advice unless unnecessarily provoked, Indra is anything but that. The satisfaction of his ego and greed are all that matter to him even if it means putting his own kith and kin at risk. If one does have any myth about the invincibility of the Gods, Anuja’s story shatters it. While the fierce and fiery destroyer turns out to be a child at heart in front of his son and a passionate lover in front of his wife, Parvati his consort turns out to be every bit a jealous spouse and an over- possessive mother. So the book is not only a journey into the mystic world of the Devas and the Asuras, but is also a journey that sees a gamut of emotions generally associated with the lesser known mortals i.e. we human beings, on display.
Yes, there are some parts that had me wondering for example the story related with the birth of Ganesha and his beheading. It is the first time I’ve come across this version. But then Indian Mythology is all about myths innumerable some known, some unknown, some popular and some that are lesser known. The true researcher perseveres and picks up the hidden ones.
The cast is huge, the characters are well- developed, and the language is lyrical and hence appealing. One can easily visualize the setting and the happenings and relate to a majority of events. But if there is one thing that left me disappointed, it was the climax. I felt it was a bit hasty and abrupt. A little bit on Kartikeya’s sojourn in the South would have helped smooth out the rough edges and straighten the crease, thereby making it a finely – finished and polished piece of writing.
A refreshing read for the mythology buff. Pick it up not just for the story but also for an insight into Anuja Chandramouli’s lyrical style of writing.
TITLE: Boo! When My Sister Died
AUTHORS: Richa Jha and Gautam Benegal
PUBLISHER: Pickle Yolk Books
GENRE: Children’s Literature (Fiction)
The title says it all.
‘Boo! When My Sister Died’ is a touching story revolving around Noorie the protagonist who’s sister Zoya dies leaving her lonely and lost. No amount of consoling and cajoling can help her come to terms with the absence of the one who was her world, that is until something happens. To know what happened, do read the book.
Evocative, the book unravels the tender feelings of a child for her sibling, her sense of loss, her irritation at being given at what she perceives as false hopes by her mother when she says Zoya is around, her exasperation on coming face to face with Zoya’s friend Dhara and her sense of despair on realizing that death may knock at will on their door, and take away another of her beloved.
The pictures in water colour and wash style with somber digital crosshatch, convey the emotions attached to the dark and bright side of life brilliantly. There are times when they convey a sense of sadness and grief and there are times when they reveal the warmth and bonding between the siblings. The pictures in fact speak for themselves. They communicate the uncertainty of life as well as the message of hope and acceptance of the inevitable, in an exceptionally clever style.
A simple story with a strong message conveyed with ease and brilliance. A must read for children of 6+ years.
TITLE: Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar
AUTHOR: Kochery C Shibu
PUBLISHER: Niyogi Books
A Hydel project in the remote Himalayas- three people brought together by fate.
Nanda an engineer from Kerala at the dam construction site, hiding from his past, from the law, torn between the love for his dear ones, and the kalari code of revenge. Khusru, a youth displaced from his native village in Kashmir, a gambit in the terror plot that threatens to blow up the dam, working as a labourer at the site. Rekha, a kathak dancer at heart, a doctor by profession, arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru. A village that accepts the dictates of modernity with a heavy heart, its population steeped in superstitions and religious beliefs.
All throng the campsite like moths to a flame, some escape untouched, successful; some miss a step and perish. Each has a story to tell and a dream to realize. Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is about the aspirations of these people, with their cares and worries woven to the site life. The fury of nature and hardships of project life have no mercy for the weak and no time for the dead.Like an eternal spectator the Dhauladhar watches as men risk their lives and limb in the quest to fulfill their dreams.
A book of dreams and aspirations some fulfilled, some gone awry, ‘Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar’ weaves facts into fiction with ease. The author’s background, his experience with hydro- electric projects and his vast experience with handling people of different backgrounds and different temperaments is evident in the pages of the book. Riddled with motley of characters of various shades and various hues, ‘Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar’ has little nuggets of time- tested wisdom also tucked in.
Apart from dreams and aspirations, the sense of despair interspersed with a sense of hope, the rustic ways of the men at work, the spirit of bonding in the labour camps, the playful banter and serious discussions are all articulated with ease thus making them easily relatable.
There is intrigue and there is a clash of emotions, there is a web of deceit and some pure passion. Life in its myriad shades and Nature at her best and worst are brought forth with ease in totality. The characters a sizeable cast, are well developed and come across as ordinary souls who can be easily spotted in one’s neighbourhood or on urban roads as well as the countryside.
The pace, though slow at first picks up after the initial few chapters. The language is easy and communicative.
On the flip side
1) Heavily loaded with technical details that can at times bog the reader down. This in turn has resulted in the book being quite a lengthy one at 283 pages. A few pages less and just the right amount of technical input will I’m sure, make the book more enjoyable.
2) A lot of phrases in the local dialect without corresponding footnotes, act as speed- breakers thus taking away the thrill of an uninterrupted read for those not conversant with the terms/ phrases.
A book with a lot of information, an array of cast and emotions, ‘Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar’ is definitely different.