Indian mythology is filled with many characters… Gods, Goddesses, Demigods and Demons etc. It’s wonderful to read about them. It’s one of the more popular genres when it comes to the world of Indian writing in English. Few authors do that genre justice, and Anuja is one of them. When this book came my way, I didn’t hesitate to take it up.
Mythology, and fantasy based on mythological characters are genres that are quite popular in Indian Writing in English of late. Though I’ve read many authors attempting the former, very few have really made an impression. Devdutt Pattanaik has been one. Anuja Chandramouli is another author whose works I have liked reading. She was attempting mythology from usually unseen perspectives, like Arjuna or Kamadeva. I wondered how she’d handle the change from the former to the latter. Yama’s Lieutenant is a fantasy novel, with mythical elements.
Mythology – one of my favorite genres, and of late, one that seems to be popular in Indian Writing in English, with various retellings and mythology-based fantasies that are coming up in that field. And an author who I have read before, and know has a talent for storytelling in this particular genre. It was a book I wanted to read knowing there was a very good chance I’d love it, and it lived up to that expectation for me.
Having grown up on a steady dose of stories from Indian mythology, the genre is one that appeals to me a lot. I know the stories of most of the prominent Indian gods and goddesses, but there are those minor gods who do play a part in those stories but aren’t quite remembered, or their stories known well. It was a surprise to see a full novel on one of those gods, especially given the author’s previous novel was about Arjuna from the Mahabharata.
Kamadeva is the Indian god of love or desire, the Indian version of Cupid, if you would. He’s known to have a bow made of sugarcane, but other than that, I had not a clear idea of him. This novel helps to add to the knowledge base. Right from the get go, the book piques my interest. The song of Kama felt spot on. Desire feels mostly indestructible. The book talks of creation of the world and of Kamadeva, and the curse that he is to be destroyed by The Destroyer. It talks of his wife Rati, and their abode, the heavens of Amravati. It talks of how he’s called on to spread love and desire with his trusty bow and arrow. It talks of the fulfillment of the curse too.
The first thing I love in the book is the cover. It is beautiful, and makes you curious to read the blurb (at the very least). The novel is one that would definitely intrigue those who love to read about mythology. The research that Anuja has done to write this book can be seen in her work, and it also indicates her passion for the genre. The language she writes in almost makes these gods and goddesses seem human, something which we don’t imagine. One of the aspects that didn’t quite gel with me in her previous book was that there were times the research overwhelmed the magic of mythology and made the narrative feel like an essay. The same holds true for this novel too, and as a reader, you end up searching for those lines that stand out, make you feel like you are reading that genre. It’s something that irks me.
It’s marginally better than her previous work. But what I appreciate is that her works are not about the characters we already know a lot of. That’s something out of the usual mythology books. So well done!
Title: Kamadeva – The God of Desire
Author: Anuja Chandramouli
Price: INR 295
(27th November 2014)
About the author:
Anuja Chandramouli is a full-time mother of two lovely girls and a part-time writer. She currently works as an e-Reporter and a columnist. She is an ardent admirer of the Mahabharata, and drawing inspiration from the great epic, she decided to make her debut as a writer with the tale of Arjuna.
Impressions from the cover:
I don’t know what it is meant to be, but it gives a calming feel. My first impression was perhaps it is the battlefield at sunset.
Impressions from the blurb:
I think the title and blurb together make it simple and clear. This is the tale of Arjuna, third of the Pandava brothers, and it hopes to capture his heroism, love, ambition, talent and his life in a gripping narration.
Though the title gives the book’s idea immediately, I first give a gist of what you can expect. This is Arjuna’s tale, and it starts with who he is. Arjuna is the third son of Pandu and Kunti, and the middle Pandava brother. We begin with how he is born. When Pandu is cursed by a deer-sage that he will die if/when he has sex, his wife Kunti invokes a blessing given to her by another sage, and calls on the gods Dharma, Vayu and Indra and bid them to bless her with a son. From Dharma, was born Yudishtira, the eldest Pandava, from Vayu was Bheema the strong, and the third, born of Indra, was Arjuna. The tale then goes on to their youth, training of archery and fighting skills under Dronacharya, the winning of Draupadi as a bride etc.
What I like in the book is Anuja’s understanding and passion for the story, as she tells every detail and the reader can’t help but turn the page to find out what more is there for them to read. Be it the childhood games of the Pandavas, or the rivalry between Karna and Arjuna, she tells it with a charm.
However, I felt the charm goes away in some places and it feels like an essay. The title makes the reader imagine a book that’s almost always focused on Arjuna, but the book felt more like the narration of events most of us know, with the parts on Arjuna standing out a little more than others. What might have made it more interesting was if it was done in first person, then the title would have been very much justified.
I like this book, but I don’t love it. It was a good effort but it could have been a lot better. Thank you for the review copy, Anuja.
Title: Arjuna – Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince
Author: Anuja Chandramouli
Publishers: Platinum Press/Leadstart
Price: INR. 250
(May 30th, 2013)