Kindle Prime Day Deals: Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra and Others

If the launch of the Netflix show, controversies around subtitling and a PIL to defend Rajiv Gandhi’s honor has not made you curious about Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, I don’t know what will! It is a voluminous book (I own the paperback). So, while you may not be able to finish it before watching the series, you might want to grab a discounted version on Kindle (Rs. 139)!

Also available for only Rs. 17.70 is Krishna’s Secret by Devdutt Pattanaik if you are a fan of his mythological research.

My Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin is available for only Rs. 9 too. This book was discussed in BYOB Party once. You can read about it in this post.

Another book I came across is The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty by Kavita Kane. It is priced at Rs. 69. I don’t know anything else about the book, but the premise of a book on Mahabharata with Satyavati as the determined protagonist sounds interesting. Check out if you would like to give it a try.

Gender, Identity and Fishermen @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 9)

Image result for shikhandi devdutt amazonBhavish spoke about Shikhandi by Devdutt Pattanaik. This book has been the subject of a couple of our previous BYOB Parties. Bhavish appreciated the way Pattanaik explored queerness in Indian mythology, revealing how Indians were remarkably casual about gender fluidity and the entire spectrum of gender at one time. The book is a series of short chapters with an explanation that follows and illustrations to match. A lot of accepted norms have been shattered. Take the story of the king who refused to heed his wife’s advice and realized later that he accepted her advice when she had taken a hermit’s form, the moral being that the source of wisdom is not necessarily reserved for one gender only. The conversation veered to Section 377, Victorian ethics and people’s complete ignorance of examples of queerness within their own culture. “Perhaps it was glossed over as the primary narrators of the great epics that explored queerness as well were our grandparents,” Bhavish said.

Image result for identity kundera amazonSunil spoke about a book called Identity by Milan Kundera. Unlike Kundera’s usual flamboyant books, Identity is a surprisingly compact book. “To speak about this book, you need to speak about the author first,” Sunil said, “Kundera talks about abstract, disparate and paradoxical ideas like identity, philosophy, perception and friendship. He reminds you of Camus for the simple reason of what reading his books does to you. It shakes you. Take the example of friendship, for instance. Aren’t friends just a mirror? A measure of where you stand when you reminisce upon your place in the world?”

Makes you want to read the book, doesn’t it?

Image result for the fishermen book amazonI added to the list of sad and powerful books by talking about The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. Compared to none other than Chinua Achebe, Obioma is a master craftsman who does a good job of exploring the Nigerian cultural landscape using the lens of one family in particular. Benjamin narrates the story of his mother, father who is always away and his three brothers. The story speaks about a country broken into two because of staunch belief systems- one of Christianity and the other the shamanistic reality that pervades all of Africa. When the children visit the forbidden river, they meet a shaman who predicts a horrible death for one of the brothers. This self-fulfilling prophecy is enacted on the pages with so much life force. Obiama combines African folklore and regular prose effortlessly. Read it.

And with that, we finally come to the end of the BYOB Party in May 2018.

Short Book Review: Shiva to Shankara and Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell you by Devdutt Pattanaik

Shiva to Shankara: Decoding the Phallic SymbolSBR: I am reviewing two books together because I read them not more than a month apart and they are both about Indian mythology from the same author. In both the books the collection of mythological stories are good. If you have grown up hearing Indian stories, some of them will be familiar. But Dr. Pattanaik, true to his vocation as a mythologist, collects them from many different sources; so you are likely to find stuff that’s new to you, or at least a variation on what you have heard.
What doesn’t work in both the books is the part that I expected to find scholarly. In Shiva to Shankara: Decoding the Phallic Symbol,  the historical changes happening in the society and the stories being added to the Shiva canon are treated equivalent. It is good poetry and makes for a nice read, but doesn’t help in “decoding the phallic symbol” in a satisfactory fashion. The author’s philosophy is to treat mythological truths no different from other kinds of subjective truths (historical truths, for example, which can’t be always accurate, but which historians and archaeologists go to great lengths to try to prove or disprove). I appreciate the sentiment, accept the importance of mythology, I know the truth is almost always subjective, but don’t like the conflation of the two kinds of truths (if I am allowed to have different kinds that is).
Shikhandi and Other TalesShikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You has to be appreciated simply for its subject matter. The author has drawn attention to the issue of queerness through the Indian mythological stories where gender and sexual identities are often fluid, without any apparent discomfort to the society. It points to a much more liberal tradition in our country than what we have today. But in the introductory chapters and in the footnotes after each story (which are sometimes longer than the stories themselves), he gives scholarly inputs and interpretation, which are often careless generalizations and simplifications. Having read about some of them from other sources, I know that I can’t trust him to even try to be objective there or to not twist perspectives to fit his pre-decided, resonant narrative.
To read or not to read: Read for the stories, but keep your judgmental antenna up on the parts that deal with history, philosophy or interpretation of the stories.