Monday, February 15, 2016

About Told and Untold Stories

Have you ever read a book which has blown your mind away?

I ended up picking Palace of Illusions during my last library visit mainly because my sister is a huge fan of the author. This book is Draupadi's account of Mahabharat and is written by Chitra Banerjee Divakurni. We all know how much I like Mahabharat. Don't we? As a child I heard lots of known and unknown stories of Mahabharata from my paternal grandparents. Every time we visited the hills we discussed Mahabharata and various angles post dinner while sipping on hot milk.

I came back home on a cold wintry evening, sat down with my coffee and my favorite radio channel and before I knew it I found myself on the 30th page. Let me be honest, I am too restless to read 30 pages at one go. Anyway, lets not digress. This book captivated my mind and my heart. I was totally swept over by Author's prose, enchanted by the conviction with which she has written the story of one of the most complex characters of Mahabharata. More importantly, most of us know Mahabharata and we know the events in chronological order and this is purely Draupadi's view of those events. Her love story.

It is written in first person narrative. The writing style is simple and easy to grasp. No flowery language which actually annoys me quite a bit. The narration is mostly reflective and retrospective. It starts from Panchali as a young girl at her father's palace with her Dhai Ma and Krishna as companions.
We see the evolution of Panchali from a young girl to a woman and how in her own little ways she defy those stereotypes. The book focuses on two major relationships. One is Draupadi's and Krishna's relationship and the other is unrequited love between Karna and Draupadi.

I loved the portrayal of Panchali's relationship with Krishna. It felt full of love and yet platonic.
Most of us have that one relationship(or friendship) which is beyond any romantic angle and yet the bond runs deep.
Panchali's relationship with Karna is of unrequited love and towards the end it comes across as spiritual. I was quite surprised after reading that because I never ever heard of such an angle. I need to do a bit of research to check on her claims. I was kind of surprised and took me a while to digest this. Her relationship with her five husbands pales in comparison to her chemistry with Karna.
I have to admit that I felt pretty invested in her relationships with Krishna and Karna. I might not agree on some points when it comes to her relationship with Karna but What worked wonderfully for me was that, in essence, she talked about the life of a woman who is a mine of experiences, and reading this book made me feel like I was reading Draupadi's autobiography. The book conveys thoughts in most wonderful prose I have read in a while.
The most beautiful thing about this book is the last chapter where Draupadi, while lying down during her final moments, is retrospecting sage Vyasa's predictions about her life's journey and about her experiencing love. She feels Krishna's presence when she starts thinking about him. He answers her questions and reminds her of him being there for her in every possible way. The dialogue is more like a closure of sorts for those two. I got emotional when Draupadi realized that Krishna's love for her was unparalleled. He loved her unconditionally, even at her worst. He loved her the way she was and never tried to change her. It is at that moment when you realize that some bonds are deeper than societal framework and don't need any "tags"..
And while finding true love is what we keep craving for in life, I think finding a friend is equally splendid.



  1. Oh 'The palace of illusions ' is one of my favourite book. when I read it for the first time ( some 4 5 years ago) , my mind was blown.
    I love Mahabharata and loved this new angle on telling a story from Draupadis angle.
    Yes it is written in a real simple way .

  2. One of my friend keeps pushing this book to me and still haven't gotten around to reading it. My grandma is a huge fan of Mahabharata. The last time she visited me, we both were discussing Mahabharata. The fact that it's told in Draupadi's POV makes me want to read it right away. Actually I already planned to read it this week after reading your thoughts on it. Wonderful write up, SA!!

  3. See there you go. This wasn't as hard now was it?

  4. It's been in my to read list for quite a time now. I ow know what I should read next. Beautiful review.

    1. Pleasure! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did :)