I had noted books by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. But talk of prejudices! Her ornate name reminded me of Barbara Cartland and I avoided her books thinking the stories would revolve around kings and queens. Given my recent interest in reading books by Indian authors, I browsed through her book ' One Amazing Thing' and was startled to read a contemporary setting. Did I feel silly! I picked up the book along with her 'Sister of my heart' and 'The palace of illusions'.
I feel what ' One amazing thing' did was put aside my doubts on her as an author. It talks of people caught in the Indian embassy amidst an earthquake . To tide over the stress of the situation, each person talks of one amazing thing in their life. The Chinese grandmother's description of Kolkatta where she had emigrated from was very interesting. The introspections rang very true and I warmed up to the author.
I started on her next book 'Sister of my heart' which talks of the bonding of love between two cousin sisters and their life journey. I guess the story had me very involved, because I was actually shaking my head when I read the last chapter visualizing an impending disaster. What also warmed me up to the book was the background setting of West Bengal, very beautifully captured. The book is peppered with Bengali words like unoon ( clay stove) , luchi (puris) which reminded me of trips to my grandmother's place. In fact there were such mouth watering descriptions of luchis and other food, that I ended up making luchis during the weekend.
I then moved to ' The palace of Illusions'. When I realised , the novel described events as seen by Draupadi, was I elated! As a kid I had heard of Maithili Sharan Gupta's epic on Lakshman's wife Urmila. In college, my friend Amita had narrated very vividly Shivaji Sawant's Mrityunjay - Karna. These two books had fired my imagination and so was delighted when I came across this book on Mahabharata as viewed by Draupadi. It never fails to amaze me that ancient ancient epics like Mahabharata, Illiad has been enthralling us across generations! At a time, when everything seems to be effected by generation gap, these epics seem to effortlessly bridge the generation gap! . Shashi Kapoor's Kalyug was based on Mahabharata, and a movie as recent as Rajneeti lightly mirrored Mahabharata again. I have watched Helen of Troy as a ten year old child, and I have watched Brad Pitt in Troy just a few years back!
Coming back to the book ,'The Palace of Illusions' had me captivated and I found it very difficult to keep the book down. The book does not white wash Draupadi. It shows her as a woman who had to be strong due to the circumstances she found herself in. As I read the book, I kept remembering Rupa Ganguli in the serial Mahabharata and felt the directors had aptly chosen her to portray a beautiful but strong Draupadi . This is one book I would recommend as a must read...