Gods, Kings and Slaves – The siege of Madurai – R Venketesh – Book Review


GodsKingsAndSlaves

Goodreads blurb: War is coming… An ancient kingdom will meet a devastating new enemy.

Peninsular India, fourteenth century; The Pandyan Empire is at its peak, its enemies subdued and its people at peace. Having left behind his step-brother Sundar in the race to the throne, crown prince Veera Pandyan is set to rule from Madurai, reputed to be the richest city in the subcontinent. But invisible fractures within the kingdom threaten to destroy it, and a new enemy approaches, swifter than anyone can imagine.

In Delhi, Sultan Alauddin Khilji’s trusted general, the eunuch Malik Kafur, has trained his eyes on the distant south, fabled for its riches. A slave captured by the Khiljis, Kafur is renowned for his ambition and cunning. None, not even the mighty Mongols, have defeated him – no empire can withstand the trail of destruction he leaves in his wake. And all he wants is to see Madurai on its knees, its wealth pillaged, its temples destroyed.

As an ancient city combusts in flames of treachery, bloodlust and revenge, brother will battle brother, ambition will triumph over love, slaves will rise to rule, cities will be razed to dust, and the victor will be immortalized in history…

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At the outset let me confess that I am a sucker for a good yarn, that too one involving kings, kingdoms, wars and descriptions of the days of yore. And as the book blurb above clearly indicates, this books has its fair share of all of my pet peeves and it was therefore a no-brainer that Gods, Kings and Slaves would be a book that I would immensely enjoy. Coupled with the fact that the author, Venketesh has spun quite a wonderful narrative deftly mixing very little fiction with a whole lot of facts, this book was quite simply unputdownable (for lack of a better word) for me.

While one thread of the narrative deals with Veera Pandyan, his birth as the ‘bastard’ crown prince of Madurai, his constant scuffles with his half-brother Sundara Pandyan (the legitimate prince), his love for Sunanda, his friendship with Akshayan and his ascent to the throne of Madurai, the other and equally interesting narrative deals with Malik Kafur, his birth as a Gujarati Baniya, his failed love, his castration and rebirth as a eunuch and how he manages to ascend the throne of the Delhi Sultanate by sheer dint of his determination and ambition.

What worked really well for me in this book was that both these narratives run in parallel and the author has put in a commendable effort to highlight not only the differences but also the similarities between the lives of his two protagonists. Starting from their birth, to their childhood, to their adolescence where they lose their innocence, to their ultimate journey to become the masters of their surroundings and circumstances are very well brought out in the book.

Along with chronicling the lives and journeys of these two, the author also chronicles the rise of their respective kingdoms, the Pandyan Empire in Madurai and the Khilji Sultanate in Delhi. How Veera and Malik use the opportunities that life presents to them, the mistakes they make, how they overcome the various obstacles that life throws their way and how they eventually live out their lives is beautifully brought out. In that sense, this book is as much about these two dynasties as it is about these two individuals. By strongly placing their narratives in the midst of all that is happening in these two kingdoms, the author ensures that we readers have a birds’ eye view of fourteenth century India and it is in these portions that the depth of his research clearly shines through.

And when the two narratives converge in the final portions of the book, it goes without saying that the action reaches a heightened sense of tension which leaves the reader turning the pages faster and faster to see what happens next. And that to me is the hallmark of a good book, one that ensures that the reader hesitates to put it down at all in the first place.

In my opinion, this book is a must-read for anybody who likes his stories to be peppered with kings, wars, history, and a healthy dose of human emotions as well. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and click on either of these links to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

And before I forget, I must thank my dear friend and awesome writer Sid [www.iwrotethose.com] for having gifted this e-book to me on my birthday which I finally got around to reading only now.

Disclaimer: Although I will earn a miniscule amount of commission if you purchase the books by using the above links, rest assured, you will not end up paying a rupee more than you normally would otherwise.

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Name Gods, Kings and Slaves : The siege of Madurai
Author/s R Venketesh
Publisher Hachette India
Year published 2013
ISBN 13 9789350095867
Goodreads link Link
Flipkart link Flipkart
Amazon link Amazon

A real hero


NK was the man. After having completed his graduation in Hotel Management and having specialized in cooking, he had managed to snag a job with the Taj Hotels group. The fact that his employers had properties in almost all the renowned hill stations and popular tourist destinations in the country also meant that NK was having a ball of a time, cooking for his guests and moonlighting as a traveler during his free time. Given his love for traveling and trekking, this job afforded him the luxury of indulging in his passion for cooking as well as nurtured his hobbies to a very large extent. And as the saying goes “If you really love what you are doing, then your job will not seem like a job, it will be more like fun.” And nowhere was this truer than in NK’s case.

As if life was not good enough, NK also managed to get a job with a leading European Hospitality chain which had properties all over the world, specifically focused on Continental Europe. It was headquartered in Switzerland and had operations in all the cities that Indian movies usually shot their song sequences in – Holland, Germany, Latvia, Iceland, etc. This opportunity was a dream come true for NK and he was eagerly looking forward to taking it up. NK was as happy as a man in his position could be, he had everything going on for him in his life.

He had approximately two more months to go before he took up the Switzerland job when he decided to take a vacation and spend some time with his parents at Madurai. After all it would be some more time before he could see them again as moving to a completely different country and settling down there would take some time. One fine day, when he was on his usual early morning jog in Madurai, he saw something that would change his life forever.

At the junction of the KK Nagar Walkers’ Park where a lot of early morning walkers were performing their early morning exercises, NK noticed a frail old man huddled in a corner of the park where the waste bin was kept. While the man himself was unremarkable, what he was doing shocked NK to the core and changed his world-view forever. Unable to bear his hunger, the old man was actually eating human waste.

NK quickly went to the closest restaurant and bought some idlis and gave them to the old man who devoured them as if he had not eaten for more than a few days. This incident shook NK to his very foundations and he realized that all that he had taken for granted in his life – food, shelter and clothes were actually not so readily available for more than a few people in this world, more so if they were mentally unstable as this old man was.

It was at that moment that NK decided to break up all his existing dreams of moving to Europe, working for an employer of repute and seeing the world. Instead he dreamt of and nurtured a more ambitious and fulfilling dream – that of being of service to the mentally unstable and destitute people in Madurai.

He quit his job with the Taj Group, rejected the European offer and decided to feed the old man and many others like him in Madurai. Initially he did this using his own personal funds and all by himself, but as word got around of his noble endeavor, more volunteers came forward to assist him. In less than a year, he founded the non profit ‘Akshaya Trust’ to assist and feed the homeless and mentally retarded people in Madurai.

In the nine odd years that the trust has been in existence, they have fed over 1.2 million meals to countless number of destitute in Madurai. And if that is not noble, then what is.

akshayatrust

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This post was written for The Queen Creative prompt : Kintsukuroi where the post had to refer to Kintsukuroi, a Japanese noun which means “to repair with gold” – “the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.”

While NK’s European dreams were broken, he repaired the same with his golden dream of forming the Akshaya Trust and helping the homeless people in Madurai. Now if that is a classic example of Kintsukuroi, if ever there was one.

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This post has also been written for Sugandha’s wonderful Blog for a Cause prompt where we can write a post about a cause that we hold dear to our heart. The post speaks for itself.

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This post is a mildly fictional account of how Narayanan Krishnan founded the Akshaya Trust in Madurai. The website of this trust is http://www.akshayatrust.org/ and it contains multiple options of how we can get involved with the activities of the trust in a manner that is most convenient to us.

Please do a google search with “Narayanan Krishnan Madurai” to get more information about this wonderful man and his noble endeavor.