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Palace of Illusions, anyone?

without-fathom IF-Rockerz
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Posted: 17 May 2012 at 2:11pm | IP Logged
Hello everyone! 

Perhaps I'm not allowed to initiate entire threads for addressing a simple question, but I did want to put it out somewhere it would find response, and this seemed like the best place. 

Any Mahabharat fans here? (I see a majority of Ramayana in general). 

Anyway, so my cousin gifted me this book during my recent road trip to India, and I finished reading it some time recently ago, and was meaning to look for someone to discuss it with - someone other than her that is, cause we both are already so done and up with out mutual discussion of it! LOL

So it's this book called Palace of Illusions, which basically is the author of the book (Chitra Lekha Bannerjee) taking on Mahabharata from Draupadi's POV. I took it up on much insistence from my cousin even though I was wary (and not to up) for a feminist version - but turned out my concerns were unfounded. 

Loved reading the book, and how it makes me look at the epic in a WHOLE new light, viewing circumstances, incidents, and basically the whole history it narrates from so many other angles! 

If anyone's read it - please jump into the thread so we can talk about it? If no one has, is there anyone I can convince about it? You won't regret, I promise! Big smile

Hoping to find someone interested!

xx
JZ

[ps: Because I'm keen enough to really get some people aboard reading this book/having read it to come and discuss here - I'm actually typing out and posting an excerpt from one of the chapters. As a teaser that I hope shall serve it's purpose well! Yes, yes, call me desperate - but I repeat myself and say, you won't regret my insistence!]

.. posting excerpt below...

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Posted: 17 May 2012 at 2:12pm | IP Logged
*Draupadi goes to a fortuneteller to help her unravel the mystery of her crucial place in the history, and how she is destined to change the course of it*

Soothsayer (Rishi Vyas) reveals (quoting from the book) - 

You will marry the five greatest heroes of your time. You will be queen of queens, envied even by goddesses. You will be a servant maid. You will be mistress of the most magical of palaces and then lose it. 

You will be remembered for causing the greatest war of your time. 

You will bring about deaths of evil kings - and your children's, and your brother's. A million women will become widows because of you. Yes, indeed, you will leave a mark on history. 

You will be loved, though you will not always recognize who loves you. Despite your five husbands, you will die alone, abandoned at the end - and yet not so. 


*Reply of the soothsayer when Draupadi, stunned by the very drastic predictions seeks out a way to avert or change the course of her destiny/future (again, quoting from the book)* 

"Only a fool meddles in the Great Design. Besides, your destiny is born of lifetimes of karma, too powerful for me to change. But I'll give you some advice. Three dangerous moments will come to you. The first will be just before your wedding; at that time hold back your question. The second will be when your husbands are at the height of their power; at that time hold back your laughter. The third will be when you're ashamed as you'd never imagined possible; at that time hold back your curse. Maybe it will mitigate the catastrophes to come!" 

---


Edited by without-fathom - 17 May 2012 at 2:29pm

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Posted: 17 May 2012 at 2:47pm | IP Logged
I'm a big Mahabharatha fan too. I also like reading many different interpretations too.  I have read it in short verse form in Tamil with different interpretations / feel of the same incidents. 

The excerpts you have given is quite interesting. Draupadi didn't follow any of the advice. Is this book available online? 


Edited by Sunna_Deewani - 17 May 2012 at 2:47pm

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without-fathom

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Posted: 17 May 2012 at 3:01pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by Sunna_Deewani

I'm a big Mahabharatha fan too. I also like reading many different interpretations too.  I have read it in short verse form in Tamil with different interpretations / feel of the same incidents. 

The excerpts you have given is quite interesting. Draupadi didn't follow any of the advice. Is this book available online? 

Subha, I don't think it's available online, cause it's a Picador pub, and they rarely let free ebooks flow around - or so says my experience. But I assure you buying a copy for personal keeps will be a great idea in this case - it's one of those books you can go back to many times and find more about! I'm glad I got myself one - it wasn't so bad either, think I spent around 500 in the Indian  ruppee currency.

ps: I really liked how the narrative of the book goes. It's like seeing a story in SO much new light. Just like the second part of the excerpt I posted above. Makes you realize about those 3 critical points and how long term their repercussions were eventually, not that we treat any of those events in trivial while reading Mahabharat itself, but somehow the main and original version is so event and male centric, that you almost never really (consciously at least) think about how Draupadi's control of situation and words affects the making of history as it happens! And how much she could have somehow altered with just a play on words or gestures at those 3 points! 

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Posted: 17 May 2012 at 8:33pm | IP Logged
JZeee... it's you Hug Haven't talked to you in forever, how've ya been? Welcome to our mytho hub! From what I've heard of the book, the concept of telling the story from the perspective of its female protagonist is admirable, but the introduction of fauxmances to sell more copies... not so much :P  I haven't read this one in particular, but I've been meaning to make a thread on the genre it belongs to - these mytho-based fiction novels are incredibly popular, so much so that KJo is even making a film based on Immortals of Meluha... we've had topics on individual books from the genre before but I think one that collectively discusses all of them might gain more traction. Mind if we convert this to fulfill that purpose? I myself would like to add a few words about Narendra Kohli's Hindi mythofics and the bit of Ashok Banker's Krishna series that I've read. All of them have some good and some bad points about them, and they are definitely worth analyzing.

Edited by lola610 - 17 May 2012 at 8:40pm

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Posted: 17 May 2012 at 9:37pm | IP Logged
I haven't fathomed deep into Mahabharat yet. I am still in the learning stages.

But, I'd love to learn more. It does help to view the situation in another aspect or point of view. There was a book on Ramayan written from Ram's point of view. That book gave me a whole new perspective and I did learn quite a bit from it. I'm still trying to gather more in depth information on Mahabarat and the legends that led to the epic.

Incidentally, from where does the book start with? Since, its from Draupadi's point of view, I was wondering if it started with her Swayamvar or some time earlier.


P.S. I'm a fan of Sherlock too Wink


Edited by Vibhishna - 17 May 2012 at 9:50pm

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without-fathom

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Posted: 18 May 2012 at 2:25am | IP Logged
@ lola610,

Ashok Banker has come up with a series on Krishna? As if butchering Ramayana was not enough.Angry

@ Vibhishna,

Me too- Sherlock's fan.


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Posted: 18 May 2012 at 3:20am | IP Logged
Originally posted by lola610

JZeee... it's you Hug Haven't talked to you in forever, how've ya been? Welcome to our mytho hub! From what I've heard of the book, the concept of telling the story from the perspective of its female protagonist is admirable, but the introduction of fauxmances to sell more copies... not so much :P  I haven't read this one in particular, but I've been meaning to make a thread on the genre it belongs to - these mytho-based fiction novels are incredibly popular, so much so that KJo is even making a film based on Immortals of Meluha... we've had topics on individual books from the genre before but I think one that collectively discusses all of them might gain more traction. Mind if we convert this to fulfill that purpose? I myself would like to add a few words about Narendra Kohli's Hindi mythofics and the bit of Ashok Banker's Krishna series that I've read. All of them have some good and some bad points about them, and they are definitely worth analyzing.

Lola Hug

Yes, it has been forever! But I've been well, et tu?! 

So maybe I'm just less reserved about dictations for what sort of alterations I take well, or don't - but while I'd been skeptical about reading such a powerful epic from the POV of a character I have too early on and for far too long been able to dismiss without due credit (and barely not feeling judgmental about) Chitra Lekha made for a seller. 

I love reading the myth and epics of any and every religion, because they can make for such intriguing reads just as works of fiction, even if I don't believe them - but it's very rare that I actually conform to any sort of marvel over a myth inspired further fiction. This one was different. I thought the fauxmance in particular was very well woven in. (Sorry if it hurts the religious sentiments or ideologies of anyone, completely unintended on my part). I'm just making a remark as I would reading a book, so please treat it as objectively as that? So anyway - I thought she made for a very interesting faux-perspective of understanding or re-explaining the acts and impulses of a character like Draupadi, who is not always easy to like or hard to judge. It also struck me only reading this book, that so much of my sympathy/empathy/attention has been devoted to the range of powerful and magnificent male characters in this epic, that the women truly have rarely featured. If at all, the lowest lows in the tales of the female characters have inspired in me some sense of clinically stoic response - like the fact that their own preceding karma somehow leads them up to the climaxes is enough to justify and sympathy rarely features. 

Reading this version has inspired in me the other way of seeing things. I'm not particularly sympathetic towards any of the female characters now, more than before - but I see so much more and better layering to them  and their making then simply foolhardy words or acts that go a long way. Suddenly they are more human and kin like to connect with - the kind of protagonists, antagonists, side characters that you can forgive not in dismissal, but because the errors are ways of humans! 

And I thought that was splendid about the book. The way it made me feel about the epic in newer ways. I could actually find myself putting some of my fave male characters in contention not over the usually raised arguments, but in slighter, more trivial seeming aspects. Where you don't just glorify warriors and saints for abiding by their birth assigned karma - and chide them in half sympathy in their moments of blunder (heck I've always had at least half a heart invested in the main bad guys like Duryodhan even, in preference over any of the "good girls"!) but where the characteristic level of judgments too can be passed on them! 

That's my take anyway. I was duly and truly impressed. I can completely understand the book receiving alternating more firmly black or white reactions - but I say extremes form better reviews than neutrality, even if the wrong extremes LOL

And I do think everyone should give it a shot. Unless the faux-romance (As you very aptly tag it Lola!) disturbs you at a fundamental level in contradicting some beliefs, I say it's not contrived, and it's certainly not wannabe! Smile If I was honest, being herald as the USP of the book, it deserves the spot, and for me entirely worked LOL There were additional nuances about the story already told that explained things I've wondered about for years, at least subconsciously if not knowingly. Like why did seeing the series often left an impression that Arjun never truly was in love with Draupadi. For all his deserved credit and fame - he was very much a mortal, with just as many human loopholes, and to me the making of a pair like Arjun and Draupadi felt like a combination of powerful personalities that should really match up - and yet, I never really felt for them as a couple. And I think somewhere I put it down to her being married to all five after all - an obvious explanation as I think of it in hindsight, and not so far from the truth perhaps - yet, I loved the way it got explained in the book. And take away Karna, take away the fictional fatal attraction, but just look at the making of Arjun and Draupadi and their marriage and the unusual arrangements around it from the way she builds it up and leads to it - and there's more empathy! 

---
Sorry I kinda REALLY got carried away, lol! But that's why I came hunting a place to post in the first place - so I could really spam and gush/rant over this topic! LOL

ps: Lola - oh sure thing, you can totally convert it. Do you want me to alter settings of my opening message/title? Let me know what and how? 

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