The tale of the Mahabharata has been told and retold so often that many of us have strong opinions about the protagonists and the story as a whole. Most of the modern versions paint the epic in black and white. Good vs evil, victory of dharma over adharma, and the like. This is where Rajeev Balakrishnan's debut work stands out.
Death Seeking Immortal is the story of Ashwathama, son of Guru Drona, friend of Duryodhana and Karna, warrior par excellence and learned brahmin. When the author tells the epic from Ashwathama's point of view, many long held notions fall apart. We see the humanness of the characters with all their flaws and imperfections.
The story is still the same, but the perspective is fresh. Many iconic moments in the tale gets only brief mentions in this book, and that was a brave move by the author. He has strived to stay true to Ashwathama's story and not be distracted by the exploits of Arjuna, Karna, Bheema or any of the others among the galaxy of heroes in the epic.
Balakrishnan has also succeeded in bringing out the horror and devastating impact of the war and the book ends on a thought provoking and philosophical note. A must read for fans of Indian mythological fiction.
Death Seeking Immortal
By Rajeev Balakrishnan
Published by Maitreya
Price Rs 300; pages 212