The Palace of Illusions

God bless Winston (a friend of mine from work) for lending me this book. I would not have stumbled upon it if he did not give it to me one day just like that saying "read this. It is a good one". I took the book, kept it around for a while and picked it up to read and after putting it down, I told Ranjit "This is by far the best book I have ever read. Period"

I love mythology and grew up hearing and reading about stories of Mahabharata (actually watching episodes of it on Sundays more than hearing and reading).

When I read the reviews that this book is Mahabharata retold but from Draupadi's perspective, I was skeptical. First of all, Mahabharata retold is not very appealing. I heard the stories so many times that I did not want to read it all over again. It can be quite taxing to read an epic, even if it is an abridged version. Over that, it was Draupadi's view which for me, translated to a very feminist version showing the world how poorly we treat our women -- a subject I am not too keen on reading about. Why? That will make a whole different post. So I reluctantly picked up the book and before I finished the first 2 pages, I was hooked.

The reason being Draupadi is like any ordinary woman. No overtures of woman power. Just a simple girl who is doubtful about the divinity of people like Krishna, the concept of heaven and hell, and the fact that she is born with a purpose. My most favorite character in Mahabharata is Karna and I liked the fact that Draupadi and Karna were secretly in love with each other (this by the way falls under the creative liberty the auther took in the book and does not match with the original story). I must say that the romance was most beautifully handled. I loved the way the chapters were named "smoke", "blue", "pyre"...somehow, they helped in retention and all the complex stories seemed not so complex when associated with the names of the chapters.

The only gap in the book was the fact that the author described Draupadi's relationship with all her husbands but Arjun's. Given the fact that he is the most important of her husbands because he was the one who won her, it seemed a little strange the he was a mere shadow.

The book got me thinking why God faces so much of complexity when He incarnates to free the world of sin. The simplest mythological story I heard where good was restored and bad destroyed is that of Noah's arc among all the ones I heard. God said "collect 2 animals each of all species and get into a ship. I will drown the earth and you can start fresh". Simple! This is exactly how I would have handled things if I were God. No complexities for me.

I totally love Mahabharata. Never ceases to draw me into its mysteries. Fantastic book. 5 stars. Must read. Must add to the collection.