Thursday, 26 March 2015

A must read - Without a Doubt (Book Review - Arjun)






Book Title: Arjun - Without A Doubt

Author: Dr. Shinde Sweety
Genre: Fiction: Mythology / History / Epic
Published by: Frog Books
No. of pages: 281
Cover price: Rs. 195









'The heart can be dissected, the brain can be sliced open, but I love to unravel the mind and emotions.' - This is the first line in the 'About the Author' section in the beginning of the book.

I don't usually include the author's introduction in the book review, but this one quote describes this book to a T. 
Dr Shinde Sweety has made the characters of Mahabharata come alive with her words.
'Arjun - Without a Doubt' is an emotionally potent narration of a section of Mahabharata with Arjun and Draupadi as central characters.

The book starts with first person narration by Arjun on the day of Draupadi's swayamwar.
It continues with Draupadi's first person narration that is preceded by three asterisks (***).
The stirring tale of 'Arjun - Without a Doubt' is told from Arjun's and Draupadi's perspective.

Mahabharata, the epic saga is not just the story of the war of Kurukshetra, but it starts much before that. This epic has an amassment of strong individuals and striking characters. One may not agree with their choices, but one cannot help but be enraptured by their personalities.
Surrounded by such strong characters, it would be so easy to be lost in the crowd.

Dr. Shinde's 'Arjun - Without a Doubt' highlights the strength and emotions of Arjun and Draupadi. 
Despite their peculiar circumstances, and their unusual obstacles, their emotions are so normal and relatable that one aches for the pain they are going through. 
Dr. Shinde's Arjun and Draupadi are special people, who face the odds with such elan that one may mistake it for lack of any distress. It is not.

It just so happens that the book I read and reviewed before this was Ramayna by Shubha Vilas (Shubha Vilas' name does feature in the acknowledgements of this book).

'Arjun - Without a Doubt' is evidently written by one who believes, who has faith, and can thus explain and convince better.

The story of Mahabharata has so much depth and so many layers that one can get lost in it.
Dr. Shinde Sweety's 'Arjun - Without a Doubt' reads like an easy-to-read fiction. That is the beauty of this book's narration.

Arjun is skilled and gifted. But he is not arrogant.
"No person is great in isolation. It takes many hands to shape a life. Denial would mean conceit, and conceit is not the same as self-respect."
Arjun is the 'reluctant warrior', who made his expertise look 'effortless'. In Dr. Shinde's words he is a Hero because he humanizes heroism.

Draupadi is a strong woman who knows her mind, being taught to behave conventionally. She doesn't need a man to complete her. Reading about her is like hearing a modern rebel talking. A tawny tigress.
'Ahead of one's time' is one of the first phrases that came to my mind as I read about Draupadi. A woman struggling to balance her assertive personality with the mould that she is expected to fit into.

"Her mind. A mind that refused to be enslaved, a mind that refused to be a mere pawn, a mind that could argue with clarity and confidence..."

Both Arjun and Draupadi are special because they are the chosen ones by Krishn as friends. He also trusts them to shoulder the burdens which no mere mortal can tolerate, let alone with such grace and positivity.

Krishn and Arjun feel a connection with each other before they have met.
In Arjun's words from this book -
"Govind did not feel like a person, he felt like an event. My cousin... no, something far more - My Destiny. I knew my life would now forever be divided into two phases - before Govind and after Govind."

I knew of the story of Mahabharata (most of it from the televised version of it), but not in much detail. In what I did know of the events of Mahabharata, Draupadi and her relationship with her husbands is kept a little under the cloak, kind-of hurriedly referred to.
In 'Arjun - Without a Doubt', the emotions, insecurities, selfishness, selflessness, and most of all, destiny... behind this decision find a central place.

As I read about the life of Draupadi, I felt a both anger and helplessness at the plight of this strong woman... a woman with five special husbands aching for one.

"...my honor cannot stem from anyone else. My honor is not someone's perception of it, not is it an illusion. My honor originates from and ends in me." - Draupadi

"No matter how much History and Destiny tried to gag her opinions, smother her with traditions or devastate her with misfortunes, she still managed to break through the shackles." - Arjun's thoughts about Draupadi

This rendition of Mahabharata by Dr Shinde Sweety is not just about Draupadi and Arjun as a couple. It is about much more. Many other sensitive topics find a place and are dealt with very exquisitively.

A very important question before reading this book is if familiarity with Mahabharata important to enjoy this book.
It would help, yes. I don't think it's necessary though.
Soon into the book, reading about incidents from Arjun's and Draupadi's point of view, one gets a hang of the story. (I repeat, Draupadi's perspective starts with ***). 
A rare help of google may be needed if one wants to understand the back story of every single reference.

There are many layers to the story of Mahabharata, and thus to the story of 'Arjun - Without a Doubt' (though the latter covers just a part of the story of the former). Many of these facets of Mahabharata voice their emotions in the words of this book.

For me though, Dr. Shinde's 'Arjun - Without a Doubt' is primarily the story of star-crossed lovers, who end up being pawns in the bigger scheme of things. 
There is so much heart-ache that one wishes for them to be normal, to not be so 'special', just so they can be together.

My favourite quotes from 'Arjun - Without a Doubt' -
  • "Power does not justify sin. Power is not virtue. Virtue is that which lasts inspite of power."
  • "...war doesn't decide who is right - it just decides who is left."
  • "Skill without passion would have been drudgery. Passion without skill would have been torture."
  • "No person is completely wicked, just as no person is perfect. We are all grey."
  • "Absence of questions is not proof of answers."
  • "Heaven is boring."
I don't know whether the author meant for the last quote to be humorous. I was smiling when I read it though. And I am smiling now.

For me, 'Arjun - Without a Doubt' did not just make me rethink my perspective on Mahabharata, it moved me as only a very well-written emotional story can.
It is a thought-provoking, interesting read that I highly recommend.

The text in italics are quotes from the book.
Thanks to the author for sending a signed copy of the book in exchange for writing an honest review.

6 comments:

  1. A passionately written review......makes me want to pick up the book.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot, Davinder... I hope you do read this book soon :)

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  2. Interesting to hear about this work from Arjuna and Draupadi's perspective. Since you like this book, I would strongly suggest that you read the book by Gursharan Das titled "The Difficulty of being Good - On the subtle art of dharma".

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot. I am glad you read this review...
      I have added your book to my 'Want to Read' list on Goodreads. I will certainly write about it once I read it :)

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  3. Nimi, that is such a heartfelt review! You have captured everything I wanted highlighted in my fav characters.
    Truly, I'm so glad my book is reaching worthy readers like you. It makes all my efforts worthwhile.
    Deep gratitude from me to you for your poetic review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot to you, Dr Sweety. I am very glad I read this book...
      It is such a beautiful book, that the review just came out 'poetically' :)

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