Sometimes some books make us ponder over a particular subject for a long time. I consider it as a rare quality of words weaved together. By this, I’m not trying to convey that such books are great ones but, they do have the quality to make you invest considerable time on them, and that, definitely, is an achievement.
Mahabharata, the greatest epic of India, has intrigued the readers and writers from the time immemorial. It is said in the Book of Beginning of The Mahabharata, “Poets have told it before, poets are telling it now, other poets shall tell this history on earth in the future.” And, so true are the words. Thousands of books have been written taking cue from this epic and, still it has retained all its charm. I always believe that whatever is in Mahabharata, is found elsewhere. But what is not there, is nowhere else. Whenever I manage to get some time, I read and re-read the great epic and, every time I feel amazed!
So, it’s quite natural that Dr. Sweety Shinde’s debut novel Arjun: Without A Doubt considerably piqued my interest. A cursory glance at the beautiful cover and you’ll understand that it’s not only about Arjun, but also about Lord Krishna and, Draupadi. The symbolization has been done artistically; the arrow representing Arjun, the peacock plume signifying Krishna, the blue lotus and, flames portraying the quintessence of Draupadi.
Dr. Sweety Shinde has depicted this very fact in her book, the interconnection of Arjun, Krishna, and Draupadi. They act, behave, feel like human beings in her book, making the characters alive. And, while doing this, I won’t say that she has deviated much from the mythological history or the other way around.
Arjun: The Hero
The first person narrative has produced a dramatic effect throughout the story. Contradiction and conviction, love and passion, enmity and togetherness…. everything has been delineated through dialogues.
The moment Arjun looked at Draupadi at the Swyambara, he thought,”She seemed like an idea, a Muse, a Divine weapon. Like Vajra- Indra’s thunderbolt.” Perhaps he fell in love with her at the very moment. And Draupadi, she mused,”My toe curled in delight. I wished I could run my fingers through his voice….my mind flew to an image of crumpled silk sheets.” These amorous musings, from both sides, prepared the foundation of Arjuna’s exile after he was captivated in the hands of destiny to “share” his wife with his brothers!
In this saga of Arjun, he has been portrayed as a real epic hero; devoid of any moral flaccidity in his character. The author has justified his every single action. The inaction of Arjun, when Draupadi was dragged to the court to face the most outrageous humiliation from her in-laws, has been justified by saying that he was in a stupor; perhaps he was thinking of those series of events as figments of his dark imagination.
Arjun truly was a character who had been immensely loved and praised by Lord Krishna who was the sole Creator and, everyone else was just his marionettes. His emotions, grievance, and grief have been put in words so meticulously that the reader is bound to feel a strange attachment with Arjun.
The Dark Lotus: Draupadi
The character of Draupadi has changed its shades according to the milieu. But, she has never been portrayed as a damsel in distress waiting for her man in shining armour to rescue her. Her characterization in Arjun: Without A Doubt will make you re-think of the story. Draupadi was, undoubtedly, the strongest ever female character of ancient India, but, she also had her own share of vices, skillfully enshrouded by her pulchritudinous appearance and various impeccable qualities.
The character of the apocryphal Dharmaraja has been severely stained. The readers may or may not sing in unison with Sweety’s portrayal of Yudhisthir but, they’re sure to ponder over her points and, as I’ve said in the beginning, I consider this as an achievement.
Language and Style
Sweety has a style of her own. She can create a gossamer through her words. The book starts as, “I lay sprawled by the lake, my fingers floated lazily along its edge. I ruffled the surface once in a while and gazed at the ripples- perfectly symmetrical ripples emanating from the epicenter.” The readers at once lose themselves in the magic of words. The charm of reading enhances when the exuberant bubbles of words rise headily upwards.
What Didn’t Work For Me
The role of Krishna as the savior of Draupadi, while Dusshashon was trying to unrobe her, has been mysteriously left out. In order to accentuate the uniqueness of Draupadi, the role of Arjun’s other wives have been belittled. (Draupadi, especially, always envied the Naga Princess, Uloopi, to whom Arjun lost his virginity)
The characters of Drona, Karna, and Pitamah Bhishma have not been properly emphasized in order to establish the supremacy of Arjun. Especially Radheya ( Karna) has been hugely lambasted just to make Arjun a hero, without a doubt.
The story jump cuts from one scene to another. Someone who is not well-versed with The Mahabharata may find it difficult to catch up with all the loose ends.
However, I’m not going to belabor my readers by making this review a long one. This is, essentially, Arjun’s story and, the author has every right to substantiate her claim to Arjun’s innocuous fame. She has done that impeccably and, even if you’re not in love with the Third Pandava, you’re sure to feel for him after reading the book.
Many times it has happened that Arjun’s story finally has deviated from its purpose and has become someone else’s (read Karna’s). One of the examples is Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince: Arjuna by Anuja Chadramouli. But, Sweety’s Arjun: Without A Doubt essentially speaks for Arjun, because, as she said, “we live in times that vilify the heroes and glorify the villains.”
It’s not an easy task to write about something already known to most of us. It’s not easy to write about Mahabharata without its spiritual aspects. It’s not easy to establish a particular one as the hero along with adequate justification. DrSweety Shinde has done all these perfectly. I do not agree with her points in many places but, I enjoyed reading her perspectives and, I feel anyone who has an inclination to unfold the myriad layers of the great epic, will enjoy Arjun: Without A Doubt.