Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni-CBD (Its too difficult typing out her small name with two long unhyphenated surnames) and I got off to a bad first date, not her problem nor was it mine. I first saw a CBD with a girl, whom I considered to be the intellectual equivalent of a medium size gnat. Hence CBD and I got off on the wrong foot.
This combined with Aishwarya Rai Bachhan (oh another Double surname. What’s with these women.....? let me not digress, that’s matter for another post) starring in Mistress Of Spice had me convinced its best I stay away from CBD. I had read a couple of her books Vine of Desire, Sister of My heart, Mistress of Spice - to be honest did not dislike her but my early prejudice prevented my complete enjoyment of her writing.
Palace Of Illusions shattered my prejudice.
I have been exposed to The Mahabharata at various stages of my life. My first experience was when Muthassan (Me Gran-Dad) got all of us noisy cousins around his armchair and gave us the story like a TV serial one hour everyday all from memory. He successfully got a bunch of unruly kids to be on their best behaviour for half the summer vacation!
My next tryst with the epic was C.Rajagopalachari`s Childrenss Mahabharata. Loved it and reread it many times, even after growing a moustache and learning to shave. During this time MaliBharatham by Mali a children’s writer in Malayalam. (Loved him when I was kid, thanks Dad for introducing Mali to me and for giving me this love for books and reading.) Not to forget the miserable Hindi Non detail text in Std VIII. (I hated it). Oh Amar Chitra Katha`s were a constant companion, borrowed from friends and libraries and begged from my thrifty folks.
I grew up and read more versions of The Mahabharata, numerous to be named. Read interpretations of the Mahabharatha like MT Vasudevan Nair’s Randaam Oozham (Translated from Malayalam - Second Turn ) Mahabharatha from Bheema`s perspective (TOW loves this), Bharatha Paryadanam - Kutti Krishna Marar (A Treatise of Mahabharata in Malayalam) and Shashi Tharoor`s The Great Indian Novel (Not too bad, very well researched).
And then landed Palace of Illusions from TOW`s book buying spree. Three Oh`s followed in quick succession. A pleasing Oh! after seeing the well designed cover page, a disappointed Oh! after seeing the author and finally an interested Oh! after reading the back page. Took up the book as nothing else was available and did not put it down till I reached the end.
For a book which has no suspense and whose plots are sub plots are well known it was amazing that I found it un-put-downable.
All the old characters were there but they had a different sheen. Draupadi was brilliant through out. Bhima and Draupadi relationship thought inspiring. Was CBD`s Dhirthrashta influenced by B R Chopra and DD. Bhishma had shades of the Chopra influence. Shikandi and karna too characters who have been brushed aside one as a eunuch and the other as a luckless bastard take on a diffrent hue. Kunthi turns from a helpless widow to a sharp and conspiring woman.
All in all BRILLIANT. Go read it.
I am with The Pregnant King and he or is it she will soon feature here. The palace got me so hooked on, that when I saw the King I had to have him/her then and there. So far money well spent.
P.S I had planned this post earlier and seem to have lost steam midways. apologies