- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1072.0 KB
- Print Length: 401 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 9386224186
- Publisher: Tranquebar (19 Nov. 2016)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01M8GXSQ7
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #647,386 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Kaunteyas Kindle Edition
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The qualities that characterize Kunti as a foster daughter in a royal home - outspoken, wise, considerate - strengthened as she becomes a queen, had to face adversity, and then live as a widow. As a widow, she rose to the challenge of guiding her sons to win back the lands, kingdom and inheritance from the cousins who had defrauded them.
In fact characterization is a strong point of the novel. With a few bold strokes, Madhavi Mahadevan sketches in each character. They remain as familiar to us as the family next door. This is how Dhritrashtra is introduced: “ His forehead, high and rounded, had the smoothness of a rock face weathered by the wind.”
In regard to characterization, the novel honors the original. Dozens of personalities come alive in the 200,00 verse of The Mahabharata. The array of characters display most of the emotions known to man. A friend of mine, while talking about a cousin who waffles a lot but is quite ineffectual, remarked, ' X is like Dhritarashtra.' I agreed, “Exactly, a flip-flop man.”
Time and again, the metaphors caught me by surprise. “The breeze fluttered through the garden with the restless energy of a whispered secret” ( describing Spring). This is how the mother reacts to the birth of a son: “ Love speaks in the flesh before it forms in thought. Even before the spirit recognizes it, the body does.”
I had one concern when I picked up The Kaunteyas. In India the doings of the heroes of the epics, The Mahabharata and The Ramayana particularly, form a real part of the psychology of the people, particularly in the rural areas. The actions and words of the heroes and heroines represent the standard against which human actions are judged. Myths provide the metaphors of everyday conversation.
My concern was how Madhavi Mahadevan would convey the timelessness of the epic. I found my answer in two areas. One, Madhavi Mahadevan does not give free rein to her imagination, as some of her contemporaries who maul and bastardize the epics in the name of interpretative psychology do. Madhavi Mahadevan’s characters act according to the ethical principles of their prototypes in the original.
Two, Madhavi Mahadevan conveys the timelessness, and relevance of the story, in her descriptions of the India of 2000 years ago. “Swans and ducks headed on a northward flight, the clear sweet warble of cranes filled the air. The taller summits were still glossed over by white swathes of snow, but on the lower slopes the ice had begun to melt and the cascades were in full gush, the silvery mist creating a fine net of moonstones, aquamarines and emeralds. The mango blossoms had appeared, their delicate yellow green contrasting with the deeper shade of the leaves. Below us in the valley, a herd of elephants stepped out of the forest to drink at the river.” There are parts of India where you can see such scenes even today.
A good re-telling moves you to take another look at the original. The original draws attention to the author/authors. Who were the people who dreamed up these stories? Why do they seem so much like us not just in the characters they created, but in our dreams, aspirations, and world view. Most of all, in our dilemmas. The conflicts are many, deep and yet open to more than one conclusion.
To paraphrase one of the metaphors in the book, “the stars, eyes of the universes, millions of cold, unblinking eyes, gazed down at us” then as they do now.
Kunti's character has no colour. The author indicates that thing happen to Kunti - her liaison with Surya or her marriage to Pandu - without her taking any responsibility for them. There is no internal dialogue, no rationalization she provides for her actions. The only place where she seems to take some responsibility is calling herself a 'murderer' for the killing of the Nishada woman and her sons in the fire at Varanavata. Anyone familiar with the epic would know that the Nishada woman tried to poison the Pandavas - that incident has many shades of grey. This fine detail is conveniently left out by the author. Kunti in the Mahabharatha is a grand character. Yes, survival is her priority, but she survives and thrives using her wits and wiles, and like all the characters in the Mahabharatha, grapples with the question of dharma. She certainly doesn't call dharma a way to subjugate women or anyone. Life doesn't flow past her - Kunti in the Mahabharatha takes responsibility for all her actions, including the summoning of Surya (flustered though she is), her marriage with Pandu, or the begetting of her children with Durvasa's mantra. The women of the Mahabharatha - Satyavati, Kunti, Draupadi, all negotiate the boundaries of power and define their power on their own terms. Life throws them curve balls, but they grapple with their dharma and rights and responsibilities and try to define their actions in those terms. Those internal battles find no place in 'The Kaunteyas'.
I should have been wary seeing that this is a Westland book, but what is with the incessent Hindi imposition on the rest of India? Why would Kunti or Gandhari or Draupadi wear a lehenga, or say 'Arre' or call their relatives chacha and bade bhaiyya?
The only thing I found readable about the book were the descriptions of nature and landscapes, although they did nothing to enhance the tale itself. There were minor allusions to the empire building that was the focus of the Mahabharatha, but it wasn't well developed.
There are instances of direct lifting of lines from other books - words straight from Dumbledore's mouth, for example - 'Humans have a knack for choosing precisely those things that are the worst for them', quoted verbatim by Durvasa in Part 1, Chapter 7.
On the whole, a rather flat, boring book that adds no value to our understanding of either Kunti or the Mahabharatha.