Author: Kavita Kane
Published by Rupa Publications
Cover Design: Swar Khosla (Instagram: @jedis_illustrations)
Cover Art: Niloufer Wadia (Instagram: @niloufer.artist)
Genre: Mythological/Historical Fiction
No of Pages: 349
MRP: Rs. 395/-
Thank you @rupa_publications for a media copy of the book.
A modern retelling of Ahalya's story. According to the original story, Ahalya is married to Rishi Gautam, and Indra, disguised as Gautam, beds her and curses her to be a rock until Ram redeems her aeons later. According to Kavita's interpretation, Ahalya is a very intelligent girl who is not allowed to further her education due to the patriarchy that surrounds her, and ironically, her mother wishes to marry her to Indra, who is a frequent visitor to their palace and is smitten by her beauty. Ahalya categorically refuses to marry Indra.
During a war, she is sent to Gautam's ashram, where she has many intellectual discussions and falls in love without either of them expressing it explicitly. Her return home causes her to become despondent, which is exacerbated by the fact that her father and brother are arranging for a swayamvar for her. She eventually admits to being in love with someone else, but gives in to family pressure and agrees to the swayamvar, which everyone predicts will be won by Indra. Fortune smiles on her, and Gautam unexpectedly wins her hand in marriage. The early days of marital bliss turn sour as she gives birth to one child after another while caring for and running Gautam's ashram. Her education comes to a halt as the burden of managing everything grows heavier. Gautam's friendliness with her fades, and he appears to be another masochist.
The author wonders if Ahalya should have been punished in the manner she was. The author's answers are revealed when Ahalya meets Sita in the forest after Ram has banished her. The conversation between the two women is well worth reading. One wonders if it makes sense to view millennia-old events through the colored lenses of modern feminism.
To be completely honest I was aware of Ahalya’s story very briefly when I read Urmila by Smriti Dewan (@thegogirlgone) (Bloomsbury, 2021) and later in-depth in Ahalya by Koral Dasgupta @koraldasgupta (Pan Macmillan, 2020) and while these books were published later that this one originally was, in my personal opinion, I preferred reading Ms Koral Dasgupta’s retelling of the story. I know one is not supposed to compare art but I’m just honestly writing down my preference. I preferred the Writing style of Ms. Dasgupta and I liked the fact there was more to Ahalya’s life than just who she should wed and her punishment. And its not like I did not like anything about this book. As mentioned earlier, I found the epilogue to be very beautifully written and the conversation between Ahalya and Sita ji to be very fascinating. And to give the Author her due, before her book, most people just knew of Ahalya as the woman who was brought back to life when Shri Ram Ji touched her feet. Now the situation has positively changed to a certain extent.
1. Plot: 4/5
2. Character Arcs: 2/5
3. Language/Writing Style: 3/5
4. Enjoyment Factor: 3/5
KEETABI KEEDA RATING: 3/5
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