Book Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


I tend to avoid retelling of Epic stories from some character point of view, since  I feel that the magic of the story will be lost when we know more about the characters. They will look more humane and less magical. This book was an exception, owing to the rave reviews and my own curiosity to read more about enigmatic Draupadi.

The story is nothing new. I grew up listening to the tales from my grandfather and saw those characters portrayed by a thousand different actors in movies and serials. The writing was crisp, to the point and held my attention from page one even if the story was not new. We know more about Draupadi, her childhood, her marriage and her inner most feelings. The prose is almost lyrical and stays with us even after closing the book.

I can pour heaps of praise on the way she dealt with the subject. Nowhere is Panchaali shown as a helpless woman. She's shown to be a strong woman who rebels against the norms of the period. It's however sad that she too becomes a pawn in the hands of men who don't love her. We see several new angles: for example I never knew Draupadi had some unexplained crush on Karna. It was almost irritating to hear a married woman to no less than five husbands constantly talk about Karna and how he holds an important place in her life. I don't know where the author did her research but this is exactly why I hate retelling of Epic stories. Authors take their liberty and interpret stories in their own way. I can never look at Draupadi the same way again. And the angle with Krishna, even though doesn't cross the boundaries, is also mildly irritating.

Nevertheless, I liked her attachment with her brother, Subadhra, Sikhandi, and Dai ma. Some scenes I wanted to read like disrobing of Draupadi and later when she ties her hair again with Dussasan's blood were probably not given enough space. And some other like her obsession with the Palace of Illusions were given more space than necessary.

The book is a page turner and worth the money you spend on it. Pick it up if you want to read the timeless tale again, this time in another point of view. My rating 4/5.

Some quotes I liked:

“Love comes like lightning, and disappears the same way. If you are lucky, it strikes you right. If not, you'll spend your life yearning for a man you can't have.”

“There was an unexpected freedom in
ļ¬nding out that one wasn't as important as one had always assumed!”

Are you having an Affair?

Movies very rarely give us gyaan. Usually movies are meant for entertainment, period. But, sometimes, even a silly romcom like Shaadi Ke Side Effects strikes a chord with us.

I have to give some disclaimers first. This post is not directed at my husband!

I'm talking about a dialogue by Ranvir, close to the climax. I don't remember it exactly but it goes something like "You are saying I'm having an affair? Then what are you having? Anything which takes your wife's share of attention from you is an affair. I'm having an affair with a girl while you are having an affair with a single, carefree Sid."

I felt like clapping. Most men, especially after having children, feel that their houses and their wives have lost the charm they used to have: The home will be messy, there will be gooey, crying children, the wife will be cranky due to the lack of sleep, she'll probably be fatter than ever. So, men avoid coming home early. There's a perfect excuse too. They need to earn more now that they have a new mouth to feed. They immerse themselves in work, or like Sid in the movie, try to find their happiness else where. They find new hobbies, or spend time at their friend's, anything to escape coming home. 

One can always argue that they are doing nothing wrong. Is working hard wrong? Is finding your own happiness wrong? They are not having an affair, are they? No! They are having an affair too. In this case it is work or some hobby. It is rightfully your wife's share of attention. It is your daughter/son's share of attention. You can't give it anything else. Not even to work. 

Why do men suddenly find the need to have a break after having children? And if you are craving for a break, perhaps your wife needs it too. Men fail to grasp that having a kid is an overwhelming experience, even for women. A lot of women lose their identity as soon as they have kids and become mother of so and so. They sacrifice their career, give up their hobbies and spend a major part of the day wiping kids bums and changing diapers. It's even worse for working women, juggling a kid and career. It's not exactly a holiday, is it? What can you do to give them a break? The least men can do to reduce their stress is to be present at home, at least to give women some adult company. And when you cannot do that, you are having an affair, as the writer of the movie rightly said. 

What I want to say is, Men, go home early. Your wife and children appreciate your company more than your boss. You are not married to your work. If you really feel the need for a break, do something together. Your wife will also appreciate some respite from children duties.