Tag Archives: legends

Hyderabad: A Graphic Novel by Jai Undurti and Harsho Mohan Chattoraj

Hyderabad by Jai Undurti and Harsho Mohan Chattoraj Title: Hyderabad: A Graphic Novel
Author/Illustrator: Jai Undurti and Harsho Mohan Chattoraj
Publisher: Syenagiri
ISBN: 978-8192920016
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 88
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 2/5

I thought this would be a graphic novel which would be worth my time. The premise seemed fantastic, though the execution fell short on so many levels that I do not know where to begin. I mean the book had so much potential and it is now all laid to waste. Sure the graphics are nice but when the story goes nowhere, it doesn’t add up to much.

“Hyderabad” is not a graphic novel about the city. Sure, it does dwell on some aspects but that is about it. There is nothing more to it. I did not understand where the novel was heading and if at all it made any point. When that happens to me (which happens very rarely by the way), then I know for a fact that it was just a colossal waste of time. I do not even want to get to the writing because there was really no plot – there was an honest attempt yes, but it didn’t work out the way it should have.

Just for the illustrations I gave it two stars. I would advise you to probably borrow it from someone but don’t make the mistake of buying it like I did.

The Thirteenth Day: A Story of the Kurukshetra War by Aditya Iyengar

The Thirteenth Day by Aditya Iyengar Title: The Thirteenth Day: A Story of the Kurukshetra War
Author: Aditya Iyengar
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-8129134752
Genre: Fiction, Myths
Pages: 260
Source: Author
Rating: 4/5

I have always maintained that mythology must not be tampered with. I am sort of wary of the idea of retellings (so-called) and drifting away from the original or the real deal. It somehow scares me to read something like that. Having said that, I was quite taken by surprise by a book that had a retelling (of sorts) and somehow also stuck close to the original plot (had no choice given it was the Mahabharata).

Aditya Iyengar’s “The Thirteenth Day” is about the thirteenth day (well of course) but it a part of the war that is known only on the surface to most. It is the day when Yudhisthira, Radheya and Abhimanyu collide on the battlefield and what is the past and present to that day. It is about Abhimanyu majorly and how the story moves ahead using the “chakravyuh” as the core metaphor (at least that is what I interpreted from it).

There have been a lot of retellings of the Mahabharata – there is no dearth of stories out there on the epic. Then why must you read this book?

The book is no frills. It is simple, clear and tells a story that is riveting and keeps you hooked. What else do you need from a book?

The narration is in first person, which I am most comfortable with and might I add that it is most difficult to write a book in first person. The danger of losing the plot or the readers’ interest is quite high. However, Aditya never manages to do any of that at any point.

The thing with retelling or writing a story from the Mahabharata is that your research has to be five folds over and nitpicked. If that is not then, then you have already set yourself up for failure. But this book doesn’t do that. The research is thorough – so much so the minor characters also stand out and sometimes have their own stories to tell. There is also the element of surrealism (in some places) and it doesn’t at any point become an impediment but only helps the story move ahead. There are a lot of layers and sub-layers to Mahabharata. One cannot write about it and not be swayed to include some of them, which is what also happens in this narrative and that works for the book at every page.

The reason I am not talking much about the plot is that I would really want more people to read this book and experience it for themselves. A read that I would urge you to pick up because it is a fresh voice and tells the old tale with that voice harnessed all along.

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Book Review: The Hindus – An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger

Title: The Hindus: An Alternative History
Author: Wendy Doniger
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780143415343
Pages: 800
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

An extensive work on Hindus and Hindu Mythology isn’t something which I would’ve read a couple of years ago. Why? Because I would in all honesty find it boring and I am glad that was just a phase when I felt this way. I was introduced to Hindu Mythology and ancient culture by a friend, and I am glad that it gave me a different perspective and at the same time made me want to read more.

Wendy Doniger’s, “The Hindus: An Alternative History” is a big book about The Hindus. She has through extensive research almost dwelt on every topic in the book concerning religion and caste. However, the alternative history angle comes from the fact that the book is centred mainly on women and the lower caste.

The book isn’t about philosophy. It is more about a social history and of course that would involve various Gods and Goddesses. There are tribal tales as well, which are a totally different take on the regular epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata. I loved how Ms. Doniger brought these to the surface.

There is nothing new about the book per se. There are tales and facts and legends that most people are aware about. What is different is the way they have been documented. Wendy Doniger knows how to write and she does so without it being complex or difficult to read.

A beginner can read this book and understand The Hindu culture better. Each chapter has several textual examples – which are intended to communicate the beliefs and traditions in the form of myths and legends to the reader. This kind of writing always works with readers who may find the subject boring.

There is a lot of imagery in the book which probably could have been cut down on and yet that is one of the ways of better understanding while reading a book of this nature. At almost 800 pages though it does get tiresome to read. I for one had to put it down and pick it up several times before I could finish it completely.

Hinduism is an entire universe so to say. It isn’t easy to comprehend or chronicle and Wendy Doniger has done a reasonably good job in merging the old with the new. There will be times when an experienced reader will be tempted to argue with the writing, which is fair enough. At the same time, the book has a quite charm about it despite its flaws. I left taking in a stronger sense of how diverse a tradition Hinduism is and how it evolved over a period of time. There are many ways to represent Hinduism and how the world views it, and yet Doniger has given us another view – which is refreshing and conflicting at the same time.

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Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik

I have always been fascinated by mythology. It has intrigued me in ways that no other field has managed to, and from there very early on stemmed the fondness for Indian Mythology. The rich and varied world that was right there before me, which was waiting to be explored and which I never had, till a friend advised I read, “Ka” by Roberto Colasso, surprisingly written on Indian Mythology by a foreigner. That led me to read “The Pregnant King” by Devdutt Pattanaik which I enjoyed thoroughly. I remember telling him at that time, “You must write something more on the Mahabharata. Something magnanimous” and he said he would and he wasn’t kidding.

So here “Jaya” by Devdutt Pattanaik was out and I was disappointed initially – only because of its size. I wanted more and more of it and only got this much, but whatever I read was brilliant. I believe that The Mahabharata is the greatest epic ever written and it surpasses even The Odyssey and The Iliad. Spread over eighteen volumes, to read the actual Mahabharata or to attempt to read it is no mean feat. I am doing that as of now through Bibek Debroy’s translation and that is another post altogether. Back to Jaya.

The story of the Mahabharata is not new to us – we know about it, we have heard about it, however how much do we really know? I guess not much and “Jaya” as a book makes you more aware about it. The various tales that took place in between till the battle, the nitty gritties you missed out on while watching it on the television (tsk tsk need I say more?), the stories that your grandmother forgot to mention and many such stories can be found in “Jaya”. The geetasar from Krishna to Arjun is beautifully written. It is my most favourite part in the entire book.

How is “Jaya” different from any other book on the Mahabharata? After all plenty have been written. It is an illustrated retelling and it lives up to that in every single way. The line drawings are brilliant – the strokes convey the expressions precisely – from anger to love to envy to sorrow to grief – after all that is what this epic is all about isn’t it – a melting pot of emotions.

Do not miss out on the footnotes at the end of every chapter – at times they are better than the actual chapter going by what they provide the reader – a better insight to the epic and why rituals are conducted the way they are, why is religion the way it is and so on and so forth.

At the end all I can say is that read “Jaya”. I have not said anything about the plot of the Mahabharata assuming that you know something about it and if you don’t then the net will always tell you more. However, to know a little more about the epic I highly recommend this book. Read it for the story it tells – about a family torn apart by greed and a war won by deceit, a blind king and his wife and their hundred sons, sons born from gods and women who turn into men. It will leave you speechless.

Jaya; Pattanaik, Devutt; Penguin India; Rs. 499