Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Great Indian Novel - Shashi Tharoor

No epic, No work of art is sacred by itself. If it does not have meaning for me now, It is nothing it is dead. - P. Lal The Mahabharata of Vyasa
The above quote,from the book itself, illustrates quite adequately what the author -Shashi Tharoor has attempted to achieve in his book The Great(Maha) Indian(Bharat) Novel. He has retold the Mahabharta using the context of India's freedom struggle upto The Emergency. The Author has created an amalgam of characters from the Mahabharata and India's politicians.
So we have a Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as Dhritirashtra. Since Nehru was so concerned with modernizing India that he was blind to the fact that the India's poor were exactly where they were before Independence. We have Gandhi as Gangaji Or Bhisma Pitamaha , he of the terrible vows , the patriach of the clans. Some characters represent Organisations like Bhim is the Army , The Strong Man who considers his duty to his brothers (in the infamous gambling scene in this case The Emergency) more important than the duty to his wife (Democracy)

This is a very clever book-almost smug sometimes - It is also a sharp commentary of Indian Politics, Indian Politicians but as importantly this book will make you laugh. It is essential before reading this book to have some understanding of the Mahabharata(If you watched the serial on doordarshan it should be enough) and of some of the events in Indian History if you wish to truly enjoy (or understand) this book. Its not often that i spend my time on the Internet trying to look up Indian Politicians to match them and events with the events depicted in this book. For this alone the author has my thanks.

An attempt to identify the characters and events in the book. (with thanks to jitsi who began this)

Gangaji (Ganga Dutta, Bhishma) – M. K. Gandhi.
Dhritarashtra – J. Nehru
Pandu – Subash Chandra Bose
Vidur – Sardar Vallabhai Patel
Gandhari – Kamala Nehru
Priya Duryodhani – Indira Priyadarshani Gandhi
Kunti - ?
Madri - ?
Karna – M. A. Jinnah
Yudhistir – Morarji Desai
Bhim – The Army
Arjun – The Indian Media.
Nakula – the Diplomatic service
Sahadev – the IAS
Drona – Jayaprakash Narayan
Krishna - ?
Kanika Menon- Krishna Menon. In the book he is the defence minister of India and is the one who is sacrificed when China Invades India.
Drewpad – Lord Mountbatten
Draupadi Mokrasi– Democracy
Ashwathaman - ?
Eklavya - VV Giri was the rebel candidate that Indira gandhi made president but F A Ahmed the president who signed the emergency
Ved Vyasji- I think it could be Rajagopalachari. But he may have died before the emergency so the time lines dont match. But he was known as Gandhi's conscience and is reputed to have written the best translation of the Mahabharata. Ved Vyas is also India's first Governor General in the book
Mohammed Rafi = Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad
Vyabichar Singh = Maharaja Hari Singh
Sheikh Azharuddin = Sheikh Abdullah
Lord Richard =
Heaslop =
Shishu Pal = Lal Bahadur Shashtri
Shakuni Shankar Dey = Siddartha Shankar Ray
Shikhandin = Nathuram Godse
Ganapathy = The Author himself? But Looking at the author's views on Ganapathi (in From midnight to millenium) I doubt it.

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