Originally written in Malyalam by MT Vasudevan Nair, the book is translated in to English by Gita Krishnankutty. This book which is a retelling of the Mahabharata from the point of view of Bhima, the second Paandav was initially titled Second Turn. A few years ago I remember ordering this book online on Flipkart. I waited anxiously for over a week before the book was delivered to me…and it was in Malyalam. You can imagine my disappointment as I stared at the book on my favorite hero from the epic, right in my hand but unreadable 😦 I returned the book with a heavy heart wishing I could read Malyalam.
This last week while browsing through Amazon I saw that the book was available on the website. I immediately ordered it & it was delivered to me in a few days. I left everything else I was reading & sat with the book. Finally my wait of many years was over.
Bhima: Lone Warrior unravels the Mahabharata through a forgotten man’s eyes – Bhima. Always having to settle for second place as a son and a husband, Bhima is put under the spotlight in the book taking a fresh approach to Indian mythology. His bravery, honour and kind nature is brought out in the pages of this book. The book gives you a peek into the life of the loner, who can hide his feelings very effectively, but has the remarkable ability to perceive other people’s feelings accurately.
Note: This book is not for those who assume Krishna is the sole hero of Mahabharata. Or think of him as the one true God with the Pandavas as demi gods. This book portrays Krishna & the Pandavas as humans, extraordinary humans yes, but humans all the same.
Somewhere between Krishna’s friend & favourite Arjun & the rightful heir to the throne Yudhishtir, Bhima has been forgotten by many. If not completely forgotten then at least allotted a back seat. The boy became popular once more through cartoons & children’s tales as a chubby kid with a huge appetite & a large belly. And that is how Bhima remains to many. In India we have two fixed images of Bhima: the little fat boy who gobbled up everything served to him & the monster who drank his cousin’s blood. Between these extremes the real Bhima is lost somewhere.
What I liked:
- Bhima has been my favourite character after Krishna in the Mahabharata. While he is overlooked by many in favour of Arjun, Karna or Draupadi in my opinion he was the finest of the five brothers. I was really happy to see a novel which has him as the hero. A position which was long denied to him & will forever be out of his reach now.
- I loved the fact that everyone was human in the book. Krishna & the Pandavas were humans who became extraordinary by their deeds. They gained fame for their valour. They also paid heavily for their wrongs.
- The fact that Bhima was so close to Arjun & in later years to Abhimanyu. I liked their bonding in the book
- I liked how Bhima did not mince words. Even in front of his mother. While he remained obedient through out his life his mind rebelled at all the wrongs which took place in front of him. Every time he was shut up by Yudhishtir & Kunti, every time Draupadi was insulted, every time Arjun was praised over him, his mind rebelled. But even without Krishna & the Geeta to guide him he had learned to control his mind.
- The Bhima in the books is a quick learner. He is a man who never forgets his lessons. He is the man who thinks before making a decision. However once a decision is made he will not back down from it. Even the fear of being called a monster cannot make him back down from his decision.
- He is a sensitive man. Although he is blessed with immeasurable strength he is not touched by vanity. He questions the apathy & foolishness of his elder brother, the ruthlessness of his mother, the silly customs of his times. He is observant & a good judge of people & situations.
What I did not like:
- I did not find the translation up to the mark. The language was too very simple for a book based on an epic like the Mahabharata. It lacked the tone which novels such as these have. They sound much better in a richer & complex language.
- I hated the way Draupadi was painted in the book. As a very passionate woman I can imagine her reveling in the tales of bravery of her husband but I do not think the violent, psycho bitch written in the novel is anything like the true Draupadi. I have always imagined her as a highly passionate woman who took great pride in her husband’s valour. She wasn’t a blood thirsty wench. Neither was she a moody, churlish little girl who made silly demands off her husband. Suffering, especially the kind Draupadi went through, makes a person more mature. The one here is more suited to a princess, pampered & spoilt by everyone in her palace & someone who is inherently evil herself.
- I have heard the theory that Yudhishtir was the son of Vidura. And it might be true as well. And I am even willing to buy that Karna was the love child of Kunti with a charioteer. But I am not buying the Bhima was the son of some wild tribal man story. Vidura was a person known to Kunti. He was also Pandu’s brother & Vyasa’s son. Having a child with him is understandable. Next, falling for the kindness of a charioteer when serving the sages is also convincing enough for me. But having a child with any random wild man? No! She is not an ordinary woman. She was a princess & then a Queen Also, she had already given birth to a son. She was under no further obligation. And Pandu had another wife! I personally support the theories put forth by Dr. P. V. Vartak in his book Swayambhu which is a masterpiece on the hero of the Mahabharata that was Bhimasena.
I loved reading the book.
A 5/5 from me.