Book Review: Menaka’s Choice

Book: Menaka’s Choice

Author: Kavita Kane

Publishers: Rupa Publications

MENAKA'S CHOICEAmong the two other books ‘Karna’s Wife’ and ‘Sita’s Sister’ by Kavita Kane, I have read only ‘Sita’s Sister’ a story of Ramayan from the viewpoint of Urmila, Lakshman’s wife and Sita’s Sister. Ramayan being the story of Ram and Sita, Urmila has only little role to play in the epic yet in author’s story Urmila becomes the protagonist and retells the story from her perspective.

With her stories mostly having mythological women as her subjects, Kavita Kane has done it again….taken one less significant character from the larger than life mythological stories and woven a delicate story bringing the character centre-stage.

From the many bedtime stories narrated by grandparents and many ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ books that I read as a kid, I gathered that Menaka was one of the most beautiful ‘Apsara’ a pawn in Indra’s scheme, sent from heaven to disturb Rishi Vishwamitra’s penance and prevent him from becoming more powerful than the devas in heaven.

But author Kavita Kane has given Menaka a personality. She becomes not just a beautiful sensuous nymphet meant as diversion or for physical gratification but also a woman with a ticking brain; she is aware of circumstances, she thinks and decides her own course of action. It is her story; of how she dares to take a path of love and loyalty, of how a game of deceit becomes her truth, of speaking her mind and standing up against wrong, of how her love is destroyed by the conniving Indra not once but twice, of her decision to sacrifice her happiness for the greater good of her children and her husband, of her desperation to reunite with estranged family, of her silently bearing the pain…

Since forever, men in Indian society have been given a status equal to God…infallible! Rishis like Vishwamitra leading an ascetic life have been revered and depicted as above all mortal insecurities. But the author has shown the human side of Vishwamitra. Known for his volatile quick temper and placing a curse on whoever dared to cause trouble in his prayers, Vishwamitra is absolutely besotted by charms of Menaka and gives in to his carnal desires like any other man and seeks pleasure in the arms of the woman. He finds much satisfaction and comfort in leading a householder till Menaka pushes him away so he could reach a higher goal.

As I read page after page the lucid description of Menaka’s charm and beauty attracted me and I wished I could see this lovely damsel in flesh before my eyes too. Kavita Kane has described the romantic and amorous episodes between the sage and celestial nymph with such artistic beauty that nowhere it seems either out-of-place or vulgar…it gives you goose pimples instead… it is almost delicious to read.

‘All is well that ends well’ and  Menaka stands vindicated of her guilt of deviating the great sage from his path of attaining highest wisdom, her children have no ill feeling towards her, her sacrifice is recognised and held honourable by her husband, Vishwamitra and Indra learns a lesson of humility.

This book is as delightful to read as ‘Sita’s Sister’ with easy syrupy language. Read it for that relaxed feeling and easy joy.

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About shoma abhyankar

I like to believe that I am a creative person. I read, write, paint, sketch, rustle up some quick and some elaborate meals for friends and family, love chess, su-doku and scrabble, can hum an old Hindi song tentatively, always stand up for women rights, hate fake people, bugs, roaches, spiders and cigarette smokers!! I graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Architecture in 1998. Soon after, I married an officer in Indian Air Force and have been on move since then. For a brief time of two years when we were posted in Pune, I worked as a junior architect in a firm. Being aware of frequent movement that we would have to live with, I chose to be a homemaker and concentrated on creating a warm and welcoming home for my family. But sitting at home without any creative activity was not my cup of tea. I learnt candle making and soon put up an exhibition at Poona Club when my daughter was barely a year old. I also enjoyed a short stint as a home-based entrepreneur, supplying chocolates and cakes on demand, while we were posted in Bareilly. With an inclination towards writing, I completed a diploma in ‘Creative Writing in English’ from Symbiosis College of Distance Learning, Pune. Then I discovered the blogosphere. Now I hope to not only travel and share my experiences with the world but also to pen a book someday....
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8 Responses to Book Review: Menaka’s Choice

  1. Tarang says:

    Would read it for sure! The Palace of Illusions has stirred my interest in mythology, and I’m particularly drawn towards women authors. And, yes you are creative. Your review proves that.


  2. Shilpa Gupte says:

    I am going to get this book next, for sure! 🙂 Thanks sis, for the review. Oh, and also Sita’s sister. That is also on my list of to-read.


  3. Alok Singhal says:

    Should come in handy when I just want to relax 😊


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