Mythologies always have the potential to be read and to be read against the grain. Several authors use their porosity to carve out their own stories. Among them is Trisha Das. In his previous book Ms. Draupadi Kuru, the idea of a devoted Draupadi takes a delightful turn. She is bored and wants to escape from paradise. With Gentlemen Kuru: Go back to the Mahabharata, Das’ new book and sequel, the author takes the tale forward. This time, Draupadi is in the new Kalyug and is visited by Pandavas.
The author spoke with indianexpress.com highlighting her new book, the reason for using humor and why she keeps reverting to mythology.
In your last book, you gave the Mahabharata a fun twist. Your recent book Gentlemen Kuru is an extension of that. Do you think changing a known perspective can be an effective storytelling tool, or does it risk being just a flashy style?
The Mahabharata has always been a fluid story, changing over time and adapting to geography. Different corners of the country, and even other countries like Indonesia and Cambodia, have different stories about the characters in the epics. In the Bheel Mahabharata, Draupadi is blonde and has an affair with the Serpent King. This is how epics have survived as long as they have – they are open to interpretation and re-examination and have become acclimatized to all ages. So, I think changing the current popular perspective and bringing in a new narrative is part of a great Indian tradition. Several million authors have told and told stories of epics spanning thousands of years.
Technically, I haven’t given the Mahabharata a twist in my two Kuru novels. Both novels begin thousands of years after the end of the Mahabharata, in modern times. The characters are the same, but the stories are new. Ms. Draupadi Kuru and The Kuru Gentlemen are essentially a continuation of the Mahabharata, not a narrative. The references to the epic in the books are mostly in accordance with popular belief.
What attracted you to Draupadi and its history?
Draupadi was a strong woman who always held an opinion, often seen as disrespectful of the men around her. She also had a very difficult time in the Mahabharata. She was neglected in her childhood because her twin was a male, married to five men, sold as a slave, stripped naked, molested, taken to guard the house in forest dwellings for 12 years, and then become a servant for a year.
As a woman reading epics, I noticed that it was pretty much the same for all women who were strong, who fought for the agency, who said ‘no’. They have been punished, either by society or by fate, for speaking out, for not being respectful or fitting into idealized molds of “good wife” or “good mother” or “good kidnapped. ”Or“ a good rape victim ”. It bothered me. We live in a time when strong women can go out and do great things. I guess I wanted Draupadi to have the same opportunities as a modern woman and I was curious to see what she would do with them.
Myths are durable and porous at the same time. When you approach one to weave a story, where do you go from?
So true. I love that different writers start from different places – that you have an epic but so many perspectives. For me, I always started from a place of love. I’ve been a huge Mahabharata fan my whole life and maybe Kuru’s novels are my attempts to come to terms with the songs that I don’t like. Or maybe I felt so connected to these characters that I wanted them to have a second chance at life, have free will, and not be constrained by the expectations of fate.
With the increase in offense and the resulting culture of cancellation, is it difficult for authors to take a canonized text and present their own versions?
It is easy to write it, but less easy to distribute it. I received a lot of feedback online when Ms. Draupadi Kuru released in 2016. However, I also gained a loyal tribe of readers who loved the concept and were eagerly awaiting the sequel. For each review, there were fifty enthusiasts. That said, my readership is mostly urban liberals, educated in English, reading fiction and loving mythology. In our algorithm-driven world, my Mahabharata books don’t really appear on most people’s radar outside of this demographic. I preach in the choir, really.
On top of that, do you use humor as a buffer?
I use humor because I have all of these really depressing things to say and I want people to enjoy reading my books. I use humor because I am angry and frustrated with so much around us. I use humor because I think it can be a bridge between harsh reality and entertainment because it allows me to get a point across and not take away the commercial nature of the novel. Also, I use humor because, by a bit of nature, I don’t like to write it.
What are you working on after that?
I’m currently working on three books – an alternative history novel, a romantic comedy set in Delhi, and a children’s book that I just started after a pretty funny dream. First I have to figure out how to write a children’s book.