Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review: AJAYA by Anand Neelakantan: Roll of Dice has Begun

AJAYA Epic of the KAURAVA Clan Book 1: Roll of Dice by Anand Neelakantan is the second book from the same author that I have read and reviewed. Earlier book Asura: Tale of Vanquished: The story of Ravana and his People was an excellent read that was quite engrossing and proved Anand to be an excellent writer who does extensive research before writing his book and takes his own time to sip and drink to finish the bottle with no hurry. And that is when I became a complete fan of Anand Neelakantan and eagerly started waiting for his next book AJAYA. Anand loves to touch Indian mythical and epic stories with a totally different kind of touch to provide an entirely different perspective but not without doing his homework well with good amount of research in his subject.
And that is where I started closely following Anand to find out about his next ventures. I participated in cover release for AJAYA, then an exhaustive Prelude and then requested him for an author interview. This is the first time any author has got so many posts on my blog. It has been an excellent journey for me with Anand Neelakantan.

Now about AJAYA. AJAYA is the story of Duryofhana, the eldest son among Kaurava Clan. The story is based on famous Indian mythological epic story Mahabharata but has been presented in a very different manner. Duryodhana has been presented as a positive character whom so far we have always seen as the biggest villain and most negative characters in all TV serials based on Mahabharata and almost all the books so far written on the same subject. So far prior to this book we have found innocent Pandavas as victims in the hands of Kauravas who are presented as crooked and cunning in all their deeds. 

That is the strength of Anand Neelakantan to take huge challenges of changing the main characters to their extremities and presenting it so well that the reader almost get engrossed in such a way that the whole outlook about the character that was there in the mind changes by 180 degrees. As far as writing style of Anand is concerned, it is undoubtedly and unchallenged. He has the art of creating big picture and then taking to the journey with the magic of his writing to extreme depths. Duryodhana in AJAYA is the lead character and is with neat intentions, and good deeds. Whatever he had to do was in response to the acts from the opposite end. His defeat in the hands of Pandavas does not prove that he was the villain and Pandavas were heroes.

Anand Neelakantan even took the challenge of playing with the characterization in a different style. We all read so far, for instance, about Shakuni, as a short, harsh and not too good appearing character. Shakuni, we see, in AJAYA, as a totally different character - tall, handsome and good looking. So is with many other characters. We saw Bhadra in his earlier book ASURA as one of the main characters who is born from nowhere but plays a substantial role in the whole book. The same happens in AJAYA too, here we find a character Jara, a beggar, along with his blind dog Dharma and has played a substantial role in the book.

Overall a very interesting read with some great lessons and insights on life. For instance a conversation happening between Karna and Kripacharya on pages 68-69 is excellent in learning about the caste system, the purpose why it was built initially and how it got misinterpreted subsequently over the period of time when one caste became the enemy of another instead of the reality that one could not survive without the other.

Though there are many excellent quotes in the book, one out of them I would like to place here on life what Acharya Kripa told to Karna after saving him from a suicidal attemp - "Life is a gamble. You do not know how the dice will fall. But once they have, how you move the pieces is in your hands."

One thing that I could not digest is about the absurd talks by Acharya Kripa and Acharya Drona against Vidhura, Bhishma, Duryodhana and the blind king Dhritrashtra to an extreme insulting extent and that too quite openly. After all they both were the servants in the kingdom and were paid for their services. It cannot happen even in today's scenario, how could that happen in those times?

And finally there is a proof reading mistake on page 15 when "few" is used twice in a sentence.

Final Verdict: A fantastic, interesting and engrossing read to learn an insight of Mahabharata in an entirely different perspective.

badge buzzoole code