Book : The Winds Of Hastinapur
Publisher : Harper Collins
Price : Rs. 299
Indian mythology is complex. In school, I had my first introduction to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The textbooks tried to cover the entire epic without getting into the details. Obviously, it all seemed like one long story which didn’t really connect. Watching the same on Television was a different thing. I still recollect the excitement of seeing one arrow splitting into ten and killing ten people in one go! Oh the thrill of it 😀 !!
Obviously, limited special effects had their moments of glory 🙂
Over a period of time, I treated the epics for the tales they were and nothing more.There were a myriad of characters over different periods of time and it became difficult keeping track of them. That was before I read Chitra Banerjee’s stellar “Palace Of Illusions”. It woke me up with a start and I realized that there was more to the Mahabharata than what I initially thought! If Palace of Illusions was Draupadi’s take on the Mahabharata, Sharath Komarraju’s “Winds Of Hastinapur” narrates the epic from Ganga and Satyavati’s perspective.
I was hooked to WoH the minute I started reading it. The story begins from a time past, when Ganga, the Lady Of The River was a mere slip of a girl.The book is split into two parts, the first half is the narration by Ganga and the second half is the story of Satyavati, the fisher-woman who marries Shantanu, the King of Hastina. The tale begins with the circumstances that result in Ganga coming down to the plains of Hastina,marrying Shantanu and bearing him sons. The story ends with the birth of Dhritrashtra (Satyavati’s grandson) and the expected birth of Pandu and Vidur.
Of all the characters in the book, it is the character of Bhishma, who holds the tale together. It is him we find out more about, the origin of his birth, his life, his oath and the reasons for his actions and his popularity . Sharath draws a very believable picture of Bhishma, a person as much a man of his own making as that of the circumstances surrounding him. It is difficult, not to feel for this person, his inner strength, his control over his emotions and his sense of loyalty.
The other character who stands out is Satyavati, the fisher-woman. She is someone I never heard of before, maybe only as the one because of whom Bhishma takes the oath of celibacy. Here, Satyavati is a character who has her own failings. When younger, she is proud and haughty but as the book progresses and she ages, we realizes just how naturally she becomes wiser. Her moments of conflict and eventual regret are beautifully put together.
While reading the book, I realized how much the author’s style is different from his previous outing, “Banquet of the Dead”. While BoTD was a murder mystery, WoH is a retelling of an epic in a beautifully articulate manner. It is surprisingly mature and delves deep into the psyche of its characters. Frankly, I had trouble believing that the two books were by the same person!
Here are some snippets from the book, which I personally liked :-
“She felt her stomach churn and threaten to turn itself inside out. She had almost forgotten what it felt like to curse someone. A curse came out of that part of you that was black and it nurtured all that was bad inside you and brought it to the fore, made it bigger and made you feel small and weak. She had heard sage Vashisht say once that that man is truly good who has the ability to curse but still cannot, for that means there is no blackness in his heart.”
“….every woman had to give up her son for fostering at some time or the other, and she now saw the wisdom in the High Sage’s words. The line of men was always measured by the father. Yes, the mother bore him, fed him, carried him, reared him, but it was the father whom the son ought to follow, and it was the father’s deeds and name that the son ought to emulate. That was the way of the world, and it was neither cruel nor kind, for the world does not care for the whims of man.
So it was right that from now on he was no longer the son of Ganga. He was the son of Shantanu.
And the son of Hastina.”
The “Winds Of Hastinapur” is a classic tale retold in a simple manner. The author claims that it is his own perspective of the epic and I am inclined to go with his version because it just makes more sense! There is a logical outcome of each situation, nothing is thrown at us in the name of special powers or magical prowess. There is no mention of arrows splitting (alas !) and maybe that is why, it is easier to relate to!
Do pick up your copy if your interest is piqued just as mine was. I’m going to place my copy right next to the “Palace of Illusions”, a book I hold in high esteem.