A review by Rubina Ramesh
Author : Usha Narayanan
Publisher : Penguin India.
Rating : 4 Stars
I have read The Madras Mangler by Ms. Narayanan. She had given me quite a bit of chills and thrills in that read. When I got the copy of Pradyumna, a mythology no less, I was a bit surprised. The genre-jumping author has a talent which very few authors can boast of. Adding to her list is an upcoming romance by Harlequin, India. So keeping her versatility in mind, one must confess, we have very few authors who explore multiple genres with such ease.
Is one which many of us have heard as ‘grandparent’s tale’, cuddled in our blankets during the cold wintry nights. I did. My tryst with mythology started with Rick Riordon. Not very authentic, but he got me interested in the mighty ones above us. Pradyumna, or rather Kama, is my personal favourite. Not because of Kama Sutra, but due to the pain he has endured in love, after being the God of Love. Strange how the Greeks, Romans and we Indians have the same sagas for our Gods. Cupid or Kama both come out as star-crossed lovers of their respective realms.
“He could no longer see anything. His senses were fading. He was plummeting into a dark abyss. “
Ms.Narayanan takes us on a journey where Lord Kama is reborn as Pradyumna, and fate plays a role by sending him to fulfill his destiny. Rati too has taken the form of Mayavati as she waits for her lord to reach his age of maturity.
‘He does not realize that Mayavati lusts for her son and not for her husband.’
Here comes a quirk of nature. The lover has to take the role of the mother. Ms. Narayanan has mixed facts with fiction in creating a challenging situation where Mayavati would maintain her chastity till Pradyumna does not accept her. (Please keep your feminism aside when you read mythology). Mayavati is presented as the favorite queen of the Asura Kaalasura, and an over-protective mother to Vama aka Pradyumna. Her protectiveness is seen as incest by a few. But as a reader, we already know from the beginning that she is Rati.
Weaving of Tales…
Ms. Narayana has woven many small tales together, although the central character is Pradyumna. Stories of Ghatotkacha, Abhimanyu, Krishna etc. are all in relationship with Pradyumna. Even though the story starts as a love story between Mayavati and Vama, the focus is not romance. It covers many a topics like the rise and fall of the Yadus, death of Abhimanyu, and of course, an untold one—the clash between the two brothers, Samba and Pradyumna. (I’m sure Ms.Narayanan is planning the second part as I write this review).
Essence of mythology…
In a mythology, authors have to maintain the authenticity of the period. In this regard, Ms. Narayanan has not disappointed me. The clothing and the dialogues were in accordance with the era the characters lived in. It shows the great research work done by the author.
Fact vs Fiction…
No two authors can be compared. But in the genre of mythology there are two sects of writers. One who has more fiction and fewer facts like Amsih Tripathi and Rick Riordon, and the other who has more facts with tiny bits and pieces of fiction woven in the story like Devdutt Pattanaik. Ms. Narayanan belongs to the latter. My only peeve would be, as a lover of mythology, I wanted some of the re-telling part to have been more imaginative. Yes, of course, the presentation is unique to the author, but parts where Gandhari broke down or Abhimanyu met his death, were more of a re-telling than weaving in of imagination that would transport us to the battlefield.
But again, parts where Mayavati faces the Rakshashas, or is presented as a jealous mother, or even the hatred between Rukmini and Jambavati has a lot of emotional drama—enough for one to visualize the scenes. Very well written.
REASONING FOR THE STAR RATING:
The editing is superb.
Transitions of Maya to Rati and Vama to Pradyuman and then to Kama are well-written.
Re-telling the episodes in Mahabharata by keeping the characters larger than life. We need that in a mythology, for these are the characters we look up to. Keeping them ordinary will take away our visualizations of these characters.
The blending of reality with myth and that of fiction with facts needed a bit more difference in its ratio. This is something for you to find out as a reader!
There are some parts where the nesting of the stories is complicated. I would have loved to follow Pradyumna in a more linear path.
RECOMMEND OR NOT?
Yes, a must-have for all lovers of the mythology genre.
THE LINE THAT STAYED WITH ME:
‘I will not dishonor my queen who brought me back from Yamaloka.’
He got married in the next scene. Men!! I tell you!
This review was first published in The Book Club, a USA-based blog, and has been republished with permission.
Rubina Ramesh is an avid reader, writer, blogger, book reviewer and marketer. She is the founder of The Book Club, an online book publicity group. She has published several short stories and can be reached via Twitter @
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