BOOK REVIEW: SUDHA MURTHY … The Upside Down King

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    This book is about—‘Unusual tales of Rama and Krishna.’ But before that let me give you a brief introduction of Sudha Murthy.

    Sudha Murthy was born in 1950 in Shiggaon, north Karnataka. She did her M-Tech in computer science, and is now the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. A prolific writer both in English and Kannada, she has written novels, technical books, travelogues, collections of short stories and non-fictional pieces. She has also written eight bestselling books for children. Her books have been translated into, all major Indian languages. Sudha Murthy is the recipient of the R.K. Narayan Award for Literature (2006), the Padma Shri (2006), the Attimabbe Award from the Government of Karnataka for excellence in Kannada literature (2011) and, most recently the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Crossword Book Awards.

    Mythology is an appropriate means to connect the past with the present, and it also keeps the future in focus.  Talking of mythology did you know there was a time when bears spoke, the moon laughed and babies were found inside the fish? And have you ever seen a man with a thousand arms?

    The tales in this collection of short stories revolve around the two most popular avatars of Lord Vishnu—Rama and Krishna—and their lineages. There are countless stories on the two, yet most are simply disappearing from the hearts and minds of the present generation. So there is a great need to connect the youth of today with these stories. This is what the book does.

    Bestselling author Sudha Murthy, takes you on a whirlwind tour, where she narrates about the days, when demons and deities walked alongside humans, where animals could talk and gods granted the most glorious boons to common people.

    The book is a publication of Puffin Books. The content has some twenty three short stories out of Hindu mythology. All very interesting. Written in lucid English. The power of such short stories is immense as it often reveals what you don’t know and therefore comes to you as a surprise. It gives you a very precise moral lesson most of the times.

    The book brings to you unusual tales of Lord Rama and Krishna. It brings to you, life lessons, of various kinds, where you learn about the lineages of so many Devtas and Asuras. Most of these stories are available in our mythological texts such as Ramayana, Gita, Vedas and Puranas. Sudha Murthy as an author has put them in a logical sequence. To give you a flavour of the book I will briefly narrate one such story that the author has incorporated in this book from the ilk of mythology. It goes as follows …

    The kingdom of Kishkindha was ruled by the monkey king Bali along with his brother Sugriva. Kishkinda lies on the banks of river Tungabhadra and is surrounded by mountains.

    One day, Mayavi, a demon, approached the gates of the kingdom and challenged Bali to take up a fight with him, which Bali couldn’t have refused. He accepted the challenge and agreed to fight with him. Soon, the battle began. Sugriva became a witness to the fight. As the fight progressed, Mayavi entered a nearby cave and Bali in his haste followed suit. But before entering the cave, Bali asked Sugriva to wait for him and went inside alone.

    Six months passed but Bali did not emerge from the cave. Finally, Sugriva heard screams and saw blood flowing out of the cave. He concluded that his brother had been killed. So, with a heavy heart, and great effort Sugriva rolled a bolder to seal the cave’s mouth to contain the demon within.

    The kingdom of Kishkindha was now without a king. Sugriva took over, and became the acting ruler. But one day, Bali walked into the kingdom unexpected—hale and hearty. When he saw Sugriva, he got upset with him and said. ‘How dare you rule my kingdom? And why did you seal the mouth of the cave, when I, only told you, to wait for me.’

    Sugriva folded his hands and replied earnestly, ‘my dear brother, I heard terrible screams and saw a lot of blood on the ground near the cave. I mistakenly assumed that the demon perhaps had killed you, and in the interest of, wanting to save the subjects of the kingdom, I blocked the mouth of the cave. I am only the acting ruler and took over in your absence. Kindly forgive me and take back your kingdom.’

    Bali, however, was in no mood to listen and forgive. ‘Do you think I can die so easily at the hands of a mere demon? Aren’t you aware of my boons and my strength? Sugriva, your actions stink of deceit. You never intended to let me out. On the contrary, you did your best to ensure, that I remain trapped. And you have always had your lustful eyes on my beautiful wife Tara. Come on, admit, all of this is true.’

    Sugriva’s response in return did not satisfy Bali. He yelled at his brother, ‘Leave my kingdom now. If you enter my kingdom again I will kill you. And as an act of revenge I will detain your wife Ruma. She will not be accompanying you.’

    Sugriva was now choice less, so he left the kingdom immediately.

    Gradually, Bali became very powerful and a cause of concern for sage Matanga who lived close by, on Rishyamukha Mountain. Bali’s arrogance grew by leaps and bounds. This was when he was noticed by sage Matanga, who then cursed and commanded him to leave the kingdom of Kishkindha or he would die, and that, he shall also die instantly, the moment he re-enters the kingdom of Kishkindha.

        Bali, therefore, stayed away from Kishkindha. Sugriva took advantage of this situation and came back to the kingdom to rule it. But he was aware that he must not cross the kingdom’s boundaries at any cost for he’ll get killed by Bali.

    But in spite of all odds, Bali remained extremely powerful. He had the ability to travel in all directions and offer his daily prayers to Lord Surya, who moved from east to west. He even had a special boon that allowed him to gain half of his opponent’s energy whenever he fought anyone in a solo combat. It made him virtually indestructible, but he remained unhappy at the loss of his kingdom.

    Kishkindha is recognised today as the heritage site of the Hampi in northern Karnataka. It is this kingdom that gave rise to the great empire of Vijayanagara.

    This was just a sample. The stories indeed are interesting, but the book lacks proper editing. I would give it seven out of ten.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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