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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Palace of Illusions

"Some women want a lot from life ...
(Well, all women are equal,
But some are more equal than others)
So some want more than the usual...
Panchaali for instance!

Even the all powerful God could not manage that feat...
A single man with all these traits (treats)?

Nah!!! stuff & nonsense!
And even 5 were not enough to match her criteria...
Ah! All that I sense...
Is that though she was a fighter
And a tough one that too...
She was also a woman, a wife, a sister and daughter
Just like me and you...
Is there a lesson from her life here?
That's what I am after..."

Palace of Illusions was a book that left me not wanting to pick up anything after that for a long time. It leaves one wanting for more of the same genre. I guess most of these books do that to me- I felt the same after the Pregnant King and after reading Prem Panicker's online Bhimsen.
Probably it is my love for the epic Mahabharata and the way each action seems to be connected to something that has already happened or something that is about to happen.
While one may feel sorry for Shantanu's sons who were drowned after birth and the departure of Ganga from his life, one cannot feel too sorry as it was anyway preordained in their previous birth.
One wonders how come Krishna permitted Draupadi's marriage to 5 men- but then that again was preordained by Vyasa- whether you attribute it to that or the fact that it was Kuntis strategy to keep the brothers united or Krishna's grand Plan anyway.

I like the way the author has interpreted the character & their dynamics in her own way, just as Prem Panicker has done in his version.

While I always labeled Karna as "Kaurav camp" all through my interaction with the epic, it's only now that I feel a tinge of sympathy for him- what a poor unlucky sod to be always at the wrong side of destiny- predestined to die, to forget all his learnings, despised by all and labelled .... (so much so that Ekta Kapoor named all illegitimate characters as Karan in her serials- I digress by the way)

Kunti's single minded focus to make her son King is worth an admirable thought.

I like the sneak peek we get into her life as a woman going on about her duties - something which is largely missing in the epic but just alluded during the rice grain episode - her struggles with her MIL and her strategies to gain control of her home. (Jodha cooks for Akbar in Jodha Akbar to just do that?- Sorry Digression)

I like the way my own appreciation of the epic has changed from what I saw as a teleserial or read in Amar Chitra Katha to what I read now.
For the first time I understand that Bheeshma is just a regent bound to the throne (and offcourse bound by pre ordained destiny- how can one forget that), irrespective of his affection for the Pandavas. Or that Karna is honour bound to Duryodhana.

Life must have been tough in those times!

I like what Vyas tells Panchaali ( I prefer calling her that too....)
- hold back your question
-hold back your laughter
-hold back your anger/ desire for revenge
If only we could imbibe that!!

I happened to read this reader's guide and wondered whether I have really read the book. So many thoughts that never occurred to me. Some of these I can't answer. I attempt to answer some that were most relevant to me.

2. How does the prediction that Panchaali will change the course of history influence her character as she matures? Were there predictions made by family or friends early in your life about your future? If so, how did they affect your choices as you grew up?
Horoscopes, astrologers- they never say a good word about me... they never do, do they? But their words do bring me back to the ground and make me more careful of how I react and what I allow myself to do.
Btw, one roadside palmreader did say I will have 5 children!!! (that's why we don't want to try for a girl- those who asked- going by historical data, we do not want triplets considering I am already en route mid thirties- digression ok)
3. When Sikhandi tells Panchaali the story of his past, Panchaali asks Krishna to confirm it. Krishna responds, “He believes it to be so. Isn’t that what truth is? The force of a person’s believing seeps into those around him–into the very earth and air and water–until there’s nothing else.”
Very relevant, someone recently said not to underestimate the power of will - if you want something, you have to want is so bad that it comes to you.
5. Panchaali relates, “Palaces have always fascinated me, even a gloom-filled structure like my father’s that was a fitting carapace for his vengeful obsession. For isn’t that what our homes are ultimately, our fantasies made corporeal, our secret selves exposed?” In what ways does your own home reflect your secret self? If Maya were to build you a palace, what would it be like?
I love this question- space- lots of space, large, grandiose, filled with sunshine and flowers, greenery, multi level
6. After Sisupal’s death, Duryodhan builds himself a grand palace and invites Panchaali and the Pandavas to be his guests in Hastinapur. What mental characteristics cause Yudhisthir to lose everything in a last game of dice? How is this catastrophe a personal turning point for Panchaali? When she is taken to court, what does she learn about her power over her husbands? About the purity of her own heart?
You are out there alone dude...
7. During their banishment in the forest, Dhri gently chastises Panchaali, asking her where his sweet sister has gone. She thinks to herself, “She’s dead. Half of her died the day when everyone she had loved and counted on to save her sat without protest and watched her being shamed. The other half perished with her beloved home. But never fear. The woman who has taken her place will gouge a deeper mark into history than that naïve girl ever imagined.” What emotion does this passage evoke in you toward the characters and their fates? Have events in your own life caused you to be stronger and more determined in achieving your life’s purposes?
When one looks back- what we were and what we have become- isn't it circumstances, the travails of life and living. One builds new relationships, weeds out irrelevant ones..goes places one would have never seen oneself do, takes up challenges, faces does toughen up
13. When Karna learns he is Kunti’s son, how does he relate this new knowledge to his fate? What has the “shame of illegitimacy” produced in his life? What does Kunti’s having abandoned her son tell you about the relations of mortals to gods in this tale? Have you ever learned a secret about your family history that has had a profound effect on how you viewed yourself?
I have not really faced something like this but given something happends, I would still view them or that individual in the light of what they were to me - I am biased that way- and maximum tell myself that even Gods have clay feet. And my advice to myself has always been- maintain a comfortable closeness and distance so that you do not get disillusioned or disappointed eventually.

17. As Panchaali goes with her husbands to the base of the Himalayas, to the path of great departure, how do her thoughts and experiences confirm her destiny? What discovery does she make about love? As Krishna guides her through death, how does she remember her life?
One does remember the best parts - heartening to know. But don't we all forget the short lived woes and troubles ones they pass? I think we are designed well that way!


Monika,Ansh said...

sounds like great reading

Praveen said...


Incidentally I picked up The Pregnant Kind today. I did see Prem Panicker's online work, but haven't found the time to read.

You might like to read this.

And have you read Yuganta?

itchingtowrite said...

praveen- thanks ...i did a review on that also sometime ago
thanks for the links. haven't read yuganta. how is it?

Praveen said...

I found Yuganta interesting. I just emailed you a pdf just to show you. The book makes a very good read.

Irawati Karve and Yuganta: an anthropologist's Mahabharata

The Palace of Illusions: the good, the bad and the Titanic

Praveen said...

I couldn't find your review of A Pregnant King. Can you pls post the link here?

Chiya said...

Mrityunjay by Shivaji Sawant and Draupdi by Pratibha rai are also good reads in this context.

Mrityunjay is in autobiographical form the story of Karna. It uncovers so many things abt his life.

Itchingtowrite said... here u go praveen
Thanks CHiya will try and get hold of them

Praveen said...

Thanks. I've bookmarked it. Will read as soon I finish the book.

the mad momma said...

ooh yummy. i loved this book. let me go review it and answer all your Qs in a post

Itchingtowrite said...

MM- go on do it