So I’ve been asked by Madvanthi from The Epic Blog to write a review of her Irony series. As far as I know, I have no qualifications whatsoever to review such a work, and I was wondering whether it was okay to do so without seeming too presumptuous (!!). However, all those doubts vanished when I actually read the series, and I discovered that the few pieces I’d just read had made a huge impression on me. That was when I decided: yes, I’m going to write this review, and I’m going to make it absolutely perfect, because I’m going to write about a series which I’ve absolutely loved reading through.
The entire series is based on certain incidents from the Mahabharata, specifically those which portray the rivalry between Arjuna and Karna. To those who are familiar with the usual narrations of this great epic (especially those who’ve had to study it at school), these pieces will be as welcome as a breath of fresh air among the hackneyed old retellings of this story. In one comment, the author mentions that she’s lucky not to have been killed by the purists yet. Well, the reason she hasn’t been killed is because even die-hard purists need a view from a different perspective, from an alternate point of time, in order to gain a fuller understanding of the story. Looking from different points of view, even what has seemed absolutely clear before can be seen in a different light. (Or maybe she’s just been plain lucky.)
Of the five pieces comprising the series (so far; let’s hope for more), the first four are alternately written from the point of view of Karna and Arjuna, while the fifth is written from Draupadi’s point of view. From the beginning on, each piece has gripped the reader and refused to let them go until they’ve read the very last word. Moreover, it has also left the reader eagerly waiting for the next instalment of the series.
If we take them individually, each piece has a different theme, while at the same time being connected to the main theme of the Mahabharata. The first piece is about the struggles faced by Karna in being trained as an archer due to his low origins, and what happens when his warrior-shunning guru discovers that he is from the Kshatriya, or warrior, caste. The second, written from his (unknown) half-brother Arjuna’s point of view, describes the humiliation faced by him when Karna, purportedly the son of a charioteer, surpasses him in archery and how Duryodhana takes advantage of this. The third tells us about how, in spite of being the king of Anga and trying to help everyone as much as he can, the whole of creation seems to be against him. The fourth is about the life of the Pandavas while in exile in the forest–the incidents of Hidimbi and Bhima, and Bakasura and Bhima taking precedence. The fifth (and last so far) is set during Draupadi’s swayamvar–about her feelings for Arjuna, who she believes to have died, and how she feels that no one else can possibly be suited to her.
It’s amazing to see how beautifully the words link to each other to create vivid imagery. To be honest, I’d never thought the Mahabharata could be this interesting–we’d had a Mahabharata text to study for Hindi one year, and I’d never really gotten over it… till now. Each section is a masterpiece in itself: but if I’d had to choose my favourite, I’d choose the fourth, closely followed by the fifth. Why? What do you mean, why? That story about Arjuna and co. in the forest is absolutely hilarious. Arjuna’s words are filled with a kind of dry humour that doesn’t make itself too conspicuous, but it’s there all the same.
As for the fifth; well, to tell the truth, even I’m not too sure why I like it so much. (Is it because it was the first one I read?) Nah, I think it’s because we’re able to relate to Draupadi in that state (let’s face it, most all of us have been in love with someone who’s either uninterested, or unavailable, or dead 😛 ). She believes that Arjuna is dead, and because of that, she’s not interested in what happens during the swayamvar. We know better, of course, and that tickles us no end.
All in all, this is one series which I’ve absolutely enjoyed reading, and I can’t wait for the next instalment. Hats off to Madvanthi for being able to produce such inspired works. It’d be really great if this series was published as a book so that more people could read it!