So after what seemed like ages, I read a book that had nothing to do with work. It was Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (CBD)'s Palace of Illusions. Given that I had grown up on a steady diet of stories, especially from The Mahabharata and related works, this was indeed something to look forward to. What piqued my interest further was that it was a retelling of the Mahabharata from Draupadi's viewpoint. For someone who gave themselves a pen name (Agnija ) derived from Draupadi's birth story, I really couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
The Palace of Illusions unfolds from the birth of Draupadi, who, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni avers, would have preferred to be called Panchali (thank you very much!). Retelling an epic like the Mahabharata from a single person's perspective must definitely present some challenges. One of which is being able to touch all the important points in the story, that the narrator could not have witnessed. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni circumvents this problem using several plot devices. Mainly conversations between other characters.
To tag this book as a retelling of the Mahabharatha, though, would be an injustice to the novel. It is more than a mere retelling. It deals with the emotions of the people involved, especially, Panchali. Something that is lacking in works like Rajagopalachari's Mahabharata. If CBD is a painter, she is really painting the mind-scape of the characters over the familiar landscape formed by the crux of the Mahabharatha. It is also a coming of age story of Panchali as she grows out of her petulant, tempestuous childhood into a woman who has learnt to bridle her fire, albeit a little imperfectly. Imperfection -- I think that is the most charming quality of the Mahabharatha itself and that comes through very well in CBD's Palace of Illusions.
A definite must read, as far as I am concerned.
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