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Arjuna is the immortal tale of one of Indias greatest heroes. These pages retell in riveting detail the story of the Pandava Warrior-Prince who has captured the imagination of millions across centuries. This is the intense and human story of his loves, friendship, ambitions, weaknesses and follies, as well as his untimely death and revival, his stint as a eunuch, and the innermost reaches of his thoughts. Told in a refreshingly modern and humourous style and set against the staggering backdrop of the Mahabharata. Arjunas story appeals equally to the average, discerning reader and the scholar. It spans the epic journey from before his birth, when omens foretold his greatness, across the fabled, wondrous landscape that was his life.
Disclaimer: I do always refer to the names of Indian characters without the suffix ‘a’. It is and will be Arjun for me, not Arjuna.
Mythology has always been the Achilles’ Heel for me. I have been trying to comprehend the epics since childhood through bland text books and the legendary television serials, especially Mahabharat. It has been mostly futile, though. As if Valmiki and Ved Vyas had conspired eons ago to confuse me with their magnanimous works. It is because of this confusion that I still pick up mythological books, to test myself.
Anuja Chandramouli, the author of this book had asked me very graciously to read and review it for her. I’d be lying if I said that I started reading without expectations. I had presumed the book would be unusual, perhaps presenting Arjun in a different light, assess him from a different angle, or even let him speak out his life to the mere mortals ages later. Alas, I was disappointed. The book is an abridged Mahabharat in English with interesting trivia and anecdotes, which are often left out in the popular versions of the epic. It is not fiction, in my opinion. Anuja has been true to the original text, the stories, the characters, their circumstances. The figments of her imagination are much less in quantity than what would have made it a great book.
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I met her for the first time fifteen years ago. Both of us had travelled from our respective suburbs to the huge city of Calcutta to appear for admission tests and interviews after our secondary board exams. We faced each other for the first time during one of such admission tests. Our parents were waiting outside as we were writing our tests in a classroom. I still remember the room, though later we couldn’t locate it anymore. We didn’t pay attention to each other, neither to the other girls. Yes, it was a girls’ school. Some of them knew each other and chatted gleefully. I knew none, and was silent as a wall, the way I was back then. The first time I actually noticed her was on the day of the interview. A tiny, thin girl with curly cropped hair like a halo around her head. Her parents were probably a little tensed about the interview, and kept talking to my parents but she was cool and chirping her way with all her certificates, academic and extra-curricular – drama, elocution. I was quite nervous, with exclusively academic credentials and being already rejected from another school for not being a Calcatian, or Calcuttan, whatever they meant. My parents were trying to boost my confidence and she was calming down her parents with confidence. I guess neither of us paid attention to each other, we were busy with our own chores and let the parents chat their way.
The third time I saw her was our first day in the new school. Both of us had been admitted there and were about to enter the school gate at the same time. My father came with me as I knew nothing of that part of the city. He was immensely relieved to see the ‘acquainted’ girl and felt that I would be comfortable with her. I was apprehensive though, not very much encouraging the idea since I had been a loner and never really tried to befriend somebody on my own. Our fathers introduced us to each other and went back. We were introduced formally and walked through the entrance of the school towards the classroom.
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Ira was not feeling guilty being caressed by another man. He was an old friend she had always liked. He might become her soul mate with time, who knows!
The husband had blasted her with the fact that he liked another man. After six months of marriage.
Ira felt her friend come closer, wanting to make a move. She too was aroused, by the scent of his presence.
Something metallic fell off the inside pocket of his jacket with a clang as he pondered over.
Ira picked it up. It was her husband’s silver tie-pin.
She had lost track of the cheat sheet. The vicious cycle was up and running.
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I was waiting nervously in the plush lobby of a leading eye care nursing home in Calcutta, whilst my father was being operated ; this one being the second in a short span of two weeks. Ideally, I should have been worried to a culpable extent, given that it was a matter of THE ultimate sensory organ, the eye. But I wasn’t petrified and not panicking anyway, as I was extremely satisfied with the fascinating technology and immaculate care provided by the team of doctors and nursing home staff. While care is something dependent on individuals, technology is not. According to me, technology is a boon which heightens to be a ‘life touching and changing ‘ experience and which comes to us in the form of modern healthcare.
My father being seventy, developed cataract in both eyes which I believe, is a common phenomenon at his age. His case became a tad more complicated as he had a thrombosis in the right eye quite a few years ago and was detected with glaucoma in both eyes. When he informed me that his doctor had suggested cataract removal in both eyes coupled with correction for glaucoma, I was profusely worried, indeed. A simple Phaco-surgery for cataract removal wasn’t going to be the case for him. I could recall the ancient microsurgery experience, which both my grandmothers went through many years ago. There were only a few doctors in Calcutta who conducted the newly invented surgery, in those yesteryears . It was quite expensive and people were highly apprehensive about the outcome because it was a new procedure. Years have passed by and advances in medical research has led to the easier and technologically smarter Phaco-surgery these days. Lucky to be born late in the era of these innovative techniques, I was far less worried for my father than his pile of worries for my grandmothers about twenty years ago.
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Mimi was gazing through her office window towards a lip-smacking summer sunset in Calcutta. She was ruing over her date planned with Soham that evening beside the Ganges. It had to be cancelled.
Her baba had called to come back home early. Being over-possessive, he disapproved of every guy she dated. Ma, had expired.
Soham hadn’t been able to impress baba the few times they met, despite Mimi hoping otherwise.
There was a power cut in the area as she approached home dejectedly. Entering inside with her set of keys she found them both, her baba and beau prattling along over tea and samosas.
She loved summer now, more than ever.
Photo Courtesy : Rajdeep Mukhopadhyay