Finally, I have my hands on my copy of Ramesh Menon’s Mahabharata. Because I’ve been kind of ill, it’s the perfect time for me to have two fat volumes to couch-surf with.

I’m happy to say that I’m liking it so far and happy with the version I chose. The intro says that Menon based his telling on Kamala Subramaniam’s version so I guess MinCat and I are somewhat in sync. Or would be if she would restart reading!

Thing is I’m reading quite fast and forget to put down things to blog. So from what I can remember:

1. The first part leads up to Bheeshma. Rather than just a grand, revered patriarch, he is humanised a bit. For example, the books says he was somewhat tempted by Amba’s offer and kind of fell in love with her. But stubbornly refused to do anything about it. Heh.

2. Duryodhan is explicitly stated to be a demon. It says that there were the howls of wolves and jackals when the Kauravas were born and right then, Vidura advised the blind king to kill his son (or at least the oldest one, who apparently looked serpent-like). I think this is a bit of an oversimplification. I mean, Duryodhan spent a good part of his childhood being groomed to be king, and probably indulged, so can one blame him for not wanting to give it up to his cousins? Obviously, he went to ugly lengths but a demon, really? I think he should get some credit for the speech in which he argues for Karna being allowed to demo against Arjun

3. I’m liking Bheem more and more and Arjun less and less. My beef with Arjun is that he so petulantly wants to be the best archer in the world. Can’t believe Drona made Ekalavya cut off his thumb!

4. Menon seems to want to set up the motivations for subsequent events very clearly. Even before Kunti’s “share whatever you have brought” comment, he says that Yudhisthir and the other Pandavas (not just Arjun) were fantasizing about Draupadi. Also, that Kunti approved of the idea of her sons marrying Draupadi (ie- even before the swayamvara incident) and actually was the one that suggested they move towards Kampilya. Also, apparently it was Yudhisthir who said the “mum look what we’ve brought” bit and not Bheem though I think it fits in more with something Bheem would do. And thereafter Kunti is all sugar-sweet with Draupadi, which again I find hard to believe.

5. What I’m not liking are the sex scenes. Now obviously, there’s a lot of sex going on and I like that Menon doesn’t shy away from it but the way it’s described is a little corny.

6. Oh and so far there’s no description of any attraction between Karna and Draupadi. In fact, Draupadi just blurts out: “I don’t want to marry a sutaputra” and thus causes Karna to miss the target. Moreover, although upto the point that Karna met Duryodhan, he was portrayed as a decent, though potently unlucky chap, after that he actively seems to side with the bad guys, in a way that seems to go beyond the call of duty. Well, at least to his credit, he does suggest going to war with the Pandavas directly instead of trying to off them in some underhand way but even that seems to have been a ploy of Duryodhan’s.

That’s it for now… more later.