Book Review: The Palace of Illusions

Growing up in a conservative Indian household, I was always given examples from the shastras and the epics on how I should live my life. On what the right and the wrong thing was. For some reason dharma was such a favorite word in the family. Except that people did not realise that it was adharmam for showering unsolicited advise on a poor, dreamy-eyed kid.

Written from a very patriarchal perspective, it was all about the men of the epic. As if this is a surprise, isn’t it? Mahabharata however took a special place in my heart. I loved watching the B R Chopra’s TV Serial with my grandpa. I secretly admired  Karna for his selflessness and a confused birth, and Duryodhana for his unwavering loyalty towards his friend. Only in the past few years did I realise, the two traits that distinguishes these men from others are the very same one that I saw in myself or something that I longed for earnestly. My ability to live life like “others wanted me to be ” for a birth that let me so confused and an yearning for acceptance from that “someone”. Shikhandi took a place in my heart too but the epic did not care much about him.

Chitra Banerjee’s book however tells the tale as seen through Draupadi’s eyes. Once I picked the book, I wondered how Panchali was able to live through her life , go through the suffering that she had to endure almost always because of the people whom she loved or through a blind sense of faith in her husbands and mom-in-law. As the pages rolled by, I found a great sense of excitement and an unwillingness to keep the book down. I found it hard to get rid of the image of Rupa Ganguly and instead view Draupadi as a progressive, liberal, intelligent and breathtakingly beautiful woman. Chitra Banerjee has very elegantly carved the emotions Panchali faces as she sees the confusion  and anxiety in her brother’s eyes over his destiny; her admiration of Shikhandi; the rush of  blood as she whizzes past her heartthrob ; the emotions during her swayamvara; the anger and embarrassment at the gamblers court, and so on ..

Not to let fellow Gaysis down (some masala stuff) – Though not in the book, Panchali is believed to have an extraordinary libido. I don’t know the context, but this fact made me happy, very happy. Happy reading everybody!

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Rashmi grew up in India and now she enjoys her time living in one of the queerest places in the world. She started transitioning a while back and is gradually coming out to people she thinks are cool enough for her. She enjoys discussing any topic under the sun and has an opinion about anything and everything. She thinks of herself as someone who can only hold intelligent conversations with people, when in reality she is totally insane and crazy, not to mention she has been highly hormonal recently. *GRIN*

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