“Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a special book for me. I read this book many years ago after reading “Indira” by Katherine Frank. Surprisingly, I found a lot of similarities in their personality traits.
I was totally bowled over by the author’s writing and the conviction with which she has written the most debated, misunderstood and controversial character in Mahabharata, and again in first person. Draupadi, the queen born from fire, married to five fiercest warriors, a queen who ruled a magical palace, one who secretly loved a man from the enemy’s camp, one who never learnt her lessons from the only man she ever trusted, Krishna, a woman obsessed about vengeance and hated by the world for having caused the death of millions in the great battle of the Mahabharata.
The novel delves into the secrets of her life, the man she loved above her five husbands, her imperfections, her likes, her feelings around dishonest people and her silent suffering against the constant insults heaped on her by the world.
Let me quote one of my favourite extract from the book,
“For men, the softer emotions are always intertwined with power and pride. That was why Karna waited for me to plead with him though he could have stopped my suffering with a single word. That was why he turned on me when I refused to ask for his pity. That was why he incited Dussasan to an action that was against the code of honor by which he lived his life. He knew he would regret it—in his fierce smile there had already been a glint of pain.
But was a woman’s heart any purer, in the end?
That was the final truth I learned. All this time I’d thought myself better than my father, better than all those men who inflicted harm on a thousand innocents in order to punish the one man who had wronged them. I’d thought myself above the cravings that drove him. But I, too, was tainted with them, vengeance encoded into my blood. When the moment came I couldn’t resist it, no more than a dog can resist chewing a bone that, splintering, makes his mouth bleed.
Already I was storing these lessons inside me. I would use them over the long years of exile to gain what I wanted, no matter what its price.
But Krishna, the slippery one, the one who had offered me a different solace, Krishna with his disappointed eyes—what was the lesson he’d tried to teach?”
I gifted this book to my friend Zeba Rizvi at my favourite bookshop Full Circle at Khan Market, in Delhi.
#PayItForward #GiftABook 23/100