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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Author Interview : Manini J Anandani, author of 'Mandodari : Queen of Lanka' (Part 2)

Manini J Anandani
Read up, the concluding part of the Interview with Manini J Anandani, author of 'Mandodari : Queen of Lanka' (Part 2). Questions such as, challenges that she had to face while writing this particular book and the most fulfilling part of this book were answered.

What she is planning on writing next, any authors she takes inspiration from, who her favourite authors, and the books, she is reading currently, are questions she answers, Folks...

Any challenges you had to face, while writing this particular book?

Ramayana is not just a story, it is our ‘Itihasa’; it is sacred. Most of us have already made up our minds about the story of Ramayana and we are always given an exemplary view of the plot when our elders narrate it to us.

So, what was challenging for me was that I had to narrate the antagonistic or losing side of the plot and at the same time maintain the status quo of the epic.

What is the most fulfilling part of writing this book?

When I write, I feel it enables me to articulate many feelings and notions into a character. While writing Mandodari, I felt I could pour it all down into her characterization.

It is fictional, but the most fulfilling part is that it gives me a sense of liberation. And probably that’s why I added an ‘Afterword by Mandodari’ section towards the end of the book that reads like an emancipated monologue.

What are you planning on writing next? When would you see that released?

I am working on yet another hero’s story from mythology, which I shall announce soon. I have just started working on it and will take at least a year to finish it.

Is there an author you take inspiration from?

JK Rowling
I am able to figure some exclusive take - away for myself in each book that I read. So, I would say each author has inspired me.

However, if I have to name a particular author, then that will be JK Rowling – I think she is a genius and I can just wish that I am able to create something as marvelous as Harry Potter.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

In the genre that I write, my favourite authors are: 

Anand Neelakantan
Ramesh Menon - Because his narratives are magnificent and modest at the same time. He takes no sides and hence his books are self-effacing, simply brilliant. 

Anand Neelakantan – I feel he is the master of counter-telling, his characters and plots are so detailed, speculative and well researched.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Devdutt Pattanaik – He has explored so much in mythology and has contributed so much towards this genre. His book ‘The Pregnant King’ is one of my favourites.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni – I think she has created a masterpiece with ‘The Palace of Illusions.’

Which books are you reading, currently?

I am reading two currently – Hindu Mythology’ by WJ Wilkins and ‘The Tao of Physics’ by Fritjof Capra.

What do you do on a day to day basis, besides writing stories?

Besides writing, I am a hands-on mother of a three year old - super-active daughter and at the same time, I am also a student of Comparative Mythology.

I am an avid reader, also shopaholic (but much sober these days).

You can Read the Review here, the  First part of the Interview here, and Buy the Book right here, as well. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Book Review : A Drizzle in the Desert by PC Balasubramanian

PC Balasubramanian’s latest book is all to do with fiction with a twist. His work, ‘A Drizzle in the Desert’, is about a young man, Abhishek Sundaram, his wife and daughter. Abhi is well settled in the US and hired by a company called Neomart.

Neomart was a leader in garments, accessories and home furnishings in the US and EU and now, wanted to move its operations to India, as well. And for that, Abhishek was chosen. This did not go down, too well with his wife, Anjali. His wife, who was well settled, as an architect in the US, had no plans to move to India. 

Also, he had another problem. That was Deepali, who went to IIT Chennai, too. Actually, so did Anjali and it was there, that Abhi had met and married Anjali. But, Deepali was there too and she did have a crush on him right from his college days. Complicated? :)

Now, it got even more complicated when she also had moved to the US and actually, got a job in the same company, as Abhi. But, then she was married to Karthik and they were thought to be an ideal couple. But complications rose within their marriage as well, as Karthik belonged to a rather rich family. They refused to accept their wedding and his mother saw to it, that no news from his family, regarding his father’s health would reach him. But, news has a way of reaching...

Meanwhile, Abhi’s father Sundaram and his closest acquaintance, Vasudevan had problems of their own, back home in Coimbatore. Vasudevan hoped that Abhi would find his son, who apparently lived in the US, unknown to them. Vasudevan’s wife, who had known the family, found it very suspicious that he would spend all his time with Sundaram’s wife and family. So, it was his desire that Abhi find Vasudevan's son for him.

Things got even more complicated, as time went on. Abhi was sent to
PC Bala
Indiaand he took it upon himself to set up the company in India. He had help from Deepali, who was to handle the HR system for him in India too. And it became it became tougher with the crush on Abhi, and Karthik, who suspected them, and also had his own problems with his own family and had taken to drugs.

So, in all this mess, would the two couples make peace? Would Abhi choose to settle in India or go back to his wife and daughter? Would the business be set up in India and run well, here too? Would Karthik and Vasudevan’s complications be solved?

You can Buy the Book, right here...   

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Author Interview : Manini J Anandani, author of ‘Mandodari J Anandani' (Part 1)

Read up, Interview with Manini J Anandani, author of ‘Mandodari : Queen of Lanka' (Part 1). 'My fascination for Ravana has been there for me for a long time. I always wondered how and where I would find the answers.' These were my first words, when I wrote a review for 'Asura : Tale of the Vanquished'. 

And now, I get to write something about Mandodari! It helped my fascination go up, all the more. It helped my imagination, that it took on a form of his wife! Mandodari had an unlimited captivation for me and now, it seems kind of satisfied.

So, in this Interview with the author, I asked her about the research that has gone into the book, and how her book was different from anyone else's, and how she thinks she could relate Mandodari's life to lives, today. There is more to this Interview, which you can read about in the next part, Folks...

How did ‘Mandodari : Queen of Lanka’ happen? What is the research that has gone into it?

‘Mandodari: Queen of Lanka’ is an amalgamation of different versions of Ramayana. When I had started researching, I began with the mainstream versions of Ramayana and then switched to the lesser known versions, which to my surprise had some contrasting variations to the mainstream one. 

So, it took me more than two years of research to confront one of the most known epic stories in the world.

I am sure; you have probably taken inspiration from a few other books? Is there any particular one, you were most fascinated by and why?

Not a particular book, but I have taken inspiration from a few research papers.

How do you think your book, ‘Mandodari : Queen of Lanka’ is different from everyone else's?

We don’t come across enough titles that narrate Ramayana from a woman’s perspective.  There are so many stories glorifying Rama that they often overshadow even Sita’s character.

Mandodari is the wife of antagonistic Ravana but there is no prominence given to her voice. The other side of the story is barely discussed and I wanted to bring that out in my retelling. I came across Chandrabati’s version of Ramayana (12th century, Bengal) that narrates the epic from a woman’s perspective and it starts with the story of Sita’s miraculous birth.

Similarly in my story, for Mandodari, her husband was the only man she loved and her narrative can justify that Ravana was a tragic hero. So, I feel what makes my book different is that at the end it may compel the reader to rethink it all and outline his own pragmatic view about the epic.

How would you relate the life of Mandodari to the lives today? Any similarities?

I can relate to the kind of marriage that Mandodari had with Ravana. Ravana may be portrayed as a dominating husband or a philanderer, but Mandodari takes control of many situations, especially in my retelling.

Similarly in any marriage today, I feel each one of the two in a matrimony have a role to play. Submissive in one situation may be dominating in other.

You can Read the Review and Buy the Book, here as well.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Book Review : Mandodari : Queen of Lanka by Manini J Anandani

If you are a mythology aficionado, then it will not be surprising that you have read and enjoyed the unpleasant ones and got some delight! Because there is always a kinder, gentler variation to them that we have missed or forgotten. There was Asura earlier, which gave us the other perspective of Ravana, now Manini  J Anandani is here, with an excellent perspective of his wife.

One such character is Mandodari : Queen of Lanka whom I have always wondered about. I mean, these could have been the true heroes of the mythological tales, from their angle.

Madhura, an apsara, who was so born, due to a curse from Paravati, Shiva’s prime consort. Parvati had found Shiva’s ash on Madhura’s breasts, and cursed her to turn into a frog. Shiva then calmed his wife and consoled Madhura and blessed her to turn into a beautiful lady. Years later, she was found and adopted by King Mayasura, an asura, in a well. 

Mandodari was tomboyish and ready to go for a hunt with her brothers. She had completed her education at 12, trained in Vedic texts, social sciences, deva and asura history, and engineering, due to her inclination towards her father’s profession. Also, she learnt culinary skills, ethical code, and theoretical knowledge of politics.

Ravana was visiting the palace, where Mandodari was. It was his second visit and created much excitement among the women at court. He had asked for Mandodari’s hand in marriage. It was agreed to by her father, in spite of his initial reluctance.

Mandodari soon became the Queen of Lanka. Her essence is shown through the adoration, and love, which she has for Ravana. It is always there, despite his liking for other women, his temper, conceit and pride. She always manages to stand by him; advises him to follow the righteous path. She always is the first one; he goes to despite all the troubles and problems, he faces as king.

She travels through her first pregnancy; a trip, which she undertook because she wanted to get away from her husband and his new wife, and from the Muni, who was not liked by Ravana, and therefore killed. She keeps her pregnancy secret, and manages to have a daughter, whose life was unfortunately taken away, and Ravana does not find out about it, initially.

She comes back and gives birth to a son, and adapts to the life of a queen. She remains a loyal wife, a loving mother and a strong queen. She can also distinguish Ravana’s feelings and love for his children and people.

She stands by him through the decisions, he makes about his troubled sister, Meenakshi, due to which the war is caused. His kidnapping of Sita, and the way, he brought her to his kingdom. The decisions, he made to send off his own children, into the war. The war had to end, and we all know how it ended.

Mandodari gives us a distinctive perspective on Ravana. The storytelling is simple, yet poignant. From the start to finish, we are shown Mandodari's angle. Manini J Anandini gives us a totally different side to Ravana, who gets ready for the war…

You can Buy the Book, right here...   

This also appeared in the The Hans India, on Sunday...