For someone who grew up reading ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ books, it was an honor to have the opportunity to review a book written by a Creative Head of the setup. History of the Indian subcontinent and our mythology is exemplary, from a storyteller’s perspective. The way it has been showcased through various media forms leaves a lot to be desired. Indians are infamous for not being proud of our heritage, and we let it rot.
Rajesh Iyer makes a compelling case for why we should look back and build on the sheer literary riches left behind by our ancestors. Through thrilling fiction based on the grand Mahabharata and written for the uninitiated – the author offers a peek into something you probably won’t be able to have enough of.
Why read it
I’ll be honest – the cover design and the name is underwhelming enough for you to dismiss it. The contents, however, compel you to keep reading. I read half of it over three days, and had to wrap up the second half in a single night – because the pace matched by burning curiosity for how the plot would unfold kept me going.
Mahabharata is a complex and a balanced tale – with neither a dark nor a light side – and both flecked with dark blood. It is brave to pick this premise, to attempt a construction on something so immense and so iconic. Characters have been established over centuries, you do not lightly attempt to play with such depth. Yet, in a language easy enough for a twelve year old, Rajesh dives into the deep side.
The story starts with a backdrop, to lay the context. Our characters, the Pandavas, are often seen reminiscing about the past and wondering about the future to come – and this text truly tells us that the author’s simple tone is intentional, and that he is capable of way more. The layered writing has the strength to separate (without obvious pointers) present day from the characters’ musings – which is an achievement.
Divinity has been respected, you are left spellbound by the beauty and unspeakable mystique of Krishna. Wars have been aptly imagined, and leave you gasping (I kid you not) for more.
What left me wee unhappy
Read this – Kurukshetra War on Wikipedia
I am a believer, and it has been established that numerous princes who fought in this great battle were Demi-Gods. They were giants, capable of great and focused destruction, powerful enough to take on thousands of human army units, and unlike any mortals.
When you are a believer, no matter how good the writing is, you cannot imagine the Pandavas to mingle and hide in a human crowd without a disguise of great skill. You cannot imagine Pandavas struggling to beat mortals in hand to hand combat – they were too powerful for this. You cannot imagine what energy must have radiated when Bheeshma, Karna and Drona stood in the same battle field, commanding the same army. You cannot imagine a battle scene so glorious, and I’d want to ask Rajesh to do justice to these legendary individuals we have the honor to be descendants of.
To make a point – the ‘Chakravyuh’ formation could be broken only by swift killing of consecutive soldiers in each layer of the formation, and considering that thousands of soldiers were involved with hundreds of layers (with powerful Kuru princes in the innermost circles), you had to keep fighting at that fiery speed for hours at end, and no human could survive it. Pandavas were warriors powerful enough to break apart these formations almost single-handedly – you do not want them to be so vulnerable – and that disappoints.
Yet, this book hits the right spot
What is delightful is the author’s respect for the epic, and his empathy towards the uninitiated reader. He does play it safe, for not everyone is a believer, and it’s easier to position beings as humans, so the story adheres to the norms. The book thrills, makes you quite curious to delve into what the battle was all about, and that flame is exactly what the author intends to ignite.
‘Evading the Shadows’ stirs and it stirs deep. Please write more books, Rajesh. Make us explore what we have forgotten.