02 January, 2014

#BookReview :: Ajaya: Roll of the Dice (Epic of the Kaurava Clan #1) by Anand Neelakantan

THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man.

At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all.
And in the wings:
* Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean. 
* Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
* Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land. 
* Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more. 
* Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
* Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.

Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…

There are always two sides to a story and depending upon the narrator, one gets to live the story the way the narrator sees it. Then again, it is mostly the victor’s side of the story that gets narrated to generations after generations until someone tells the other side of the story. And no one does it better than Anand Nelakantan. If you have already read his debut novel, ‘Asura’, then you know… If you are yet to pick up an Anand Neelakantan book then pick up one because as a reader you can only live this experience by reading his narration.

‘Ajaya’ tells us the story from Suyodhana’s, or as we all know him more commonly as Duryodhana, point of view. Yes, Once again the author has gone and done it by telling the story of Mahabharata from a different point of view over the more common version of Padava’s. As we delve into the pages, we come to a realization, Bhishma wasn’t all good, Karna was indeed mistreated and was more of an honorable man than depicted earlier and that there were very important reasons behind every single act that we took as a general course of the story. The fact that no one is made of only light or only darkness is highlighted over and over again as we see the lighter sides of the ‘accepted’ villains of the story and the darkness within our heroes. The superstitions and hypocrisy of the society then reflects how little we, as humans, have actually developed over time.

The author’s language and narration remains crisp as ever. His view can be described as radical as he takes us on the journey to question our heroes and give a chance to the other characters to explain their situation, their point of view and their dilemmas. I love the fact that he encourages and makes us question everything that we know about Mahabharata and its cast. At the same time he brings certain freshness to the same old story that every Indian has grown up reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed the insights to the other side through the author’s quill and you will too if you pick this book up with an open mind. I will be eagerly waiting for the next installment. 

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