Given that I am going to read the second book of The Hastinapur series by Sharath Komarraju (The Rise of Hastinapur) sometime soon as an ‘early reader’ of the book, I thought I would quickly re-read the first one in the series The Winds of Hastinapur so that I could brush up my memories of the story so far. And man, did this book take away my breath yet again or what.
As I have mentioned in my earlier review [Link to review], the first half of the book sets the stage for what is truly an unique retelling of the Mahabharata, reimagining the origins to quite a large extent while staying extremely honest both to the epic itself and the characters as well. While the character motivations for their actions are probably a little different when compared to the original epic, the fact that they don’t stray too far from the original premise of Veda Vyasa’s epic shows the reverence that the author has for it.
The following are some of the more striking incidents in the plot and its treatment that stayed back with me during the second reading of this book.
1- The extreme sacrifices made by the Ladies of the River in ensuring that they lived out their lives burdened with the memories of all the earlier Ladies of the River before them. Even to imagine a situation like this gives me a headache. As it is, memories (good or bad) from one’s own lifetime are bad enough to give me a headache, then just imagine living out a lifetime with memories of more than one previous lives.
2- Devavrata’s farsightedness and ability to put the greater good of the greater number of people when he decided to leave Meru and search his destiny with his father Shantanu in Hastina.
3- Satyavati, also called Matsyagandha, her thoughts on virginity and to paraphrase “She knew now that that was virginity; being pure in thought and action, being unafraid as long as your actions have nothing immoral about them; and taking pride in the gifts that the Gods have given you, and spit back on the shame that the world insisted on heaping upon you.”
4- Ironical situations – The price Satyavati pays for having extracted the promise from Devavrata, despite having both her sons ascend the throne of Hastina, both of them didn’t even last for more than couple of years as the ruler. Despite keeping his oath of never ascending the throne of Hastina himself and ruling the kingdom, the irony of Devavrata having to run the kingdom all by himself for more than his fair share of time.
5-In case you wondered why the book is called what it is called, its last line has the answer to this question.
In a nutshell, if you are still wondering if this book is worth reading, then you just haven’t read either my original review or this post carefully enough.