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The Last Kaurava a Novel Paperback – 18 Nov 2015
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About the Author
"Kamesh Ramakrishna grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai) and completed his undergraduate studies at IIT-Kanpur. He went on to obtain a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, specialising in Artificial Intelligence. He worked as a professor and a software engineer; received some patents; was software architect for some foundational products; was CTO for a startup; and in recent years, has been a consulting software architect. For over twenty years, Kamesh has been an avid student of history, archaeology, science and philosophy and the interconnection between these disciplines. Kamesh has published the core ideas underlying this novel in two reviewed journals - The Trumpeter (Canada) and The Indian Journal of Eco criticism. Kamesh lives with his family in Massachusetts."
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The plot was explored beautifully. If you have read the Mahabharata, you would understand the whole book easily. If you haven’t read it, I advise you to read it first.
The book first starts in 850 B.C. where a member of Kavi Sangha, the guild of bards in Hastinapur, Vaishampaayana narrates the story of Devavrat Bhishma ‘The Terrible’ to Bhargava, a scribe. They were Kavi Sangha to record the story on palm leaves for preservation. The stories were ‘remembered’ by the bards and in turn narrated to the public on festivals and fares. They were remembered, hence, they posed a threat to their continuity. So the bards wanted to preserve them for future generations to come.
Then the story takes us to 2000 B.C. where the actual event took place, the Mahabharata, the Great War. Here, Bhishma is badly injured and he tells his life story to all and a bard starts the process to learn whatever he is speaking. This bard, in turn, teaches many other generations before it reaches to Vaishampaayana.
Vaishampaayana and Bhargava are the characters in 850 B.C. who are debating over whether scribing all the work they remember is a good idea, as the concept of paper was not that common in those days. Rather, the primitive paper was the most expensive fibre.
Rest all the characters were of the Mahabharata and I love them all. The level of complexity in each of them is just perfect to make us want to know more about them. All I can recommend to all is to read it. And if you are not comfortable with reading the Hindi version of it, you could try the English one.
At first, I didn’t seem to understand the story (it’s always the case with me!). But after about 30 pages I got what the author was trying to say.
All in all, I loved how he incorporated the story of one person into the book and he was the ‘centre of attraction’ for me the whole time. Never did I felt once that any other character was dominating over the main character. All the characters were done justice. The dialogues were sometimes funny, sometimes serious and sometimes really appropriate.
I loved the book for what it was trying to say. The author has hinted that he will be writing a second book which I’ll be waiting for to read.
I’ll give this book a 5/5 for a great try to convert an epic story into a fictional masterpiece.
Those who like to read mythological fiction must go for this. The book is a fiction novel with the author's perspective of the epic.
Full review here: http://mybookshelf.in/book-reviews/the-last-kaurava-by-kamesh-ramakrishna-book-review/
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This book is not the Mahabharata, as Kamesh's mother says..if by that you mean the full-fledged story with all the supernatural miracles and wonders. This is the story as it may have really happened, with wonderful insights as to the economic and cultural situation as it may have been, and another slant on well-known and beloved characters. I read the book in one day after I got it, and am now waiting breathlessly for the other installments.
It gives a clue, or a guess, if you will, as to the various cultures and peoples. These are things I had very little insight into in all my previous readings. No one at this remove could say for certain that this is the way things really were, but just the suggestion or supposition feels very valuable to me.
As I say, highly recommended.
To truly appreciate this book one needs to know and love the textured epic. The beauty of the Mahabharata is that it is not as black & white as the other works of Hindu ancient literature. The protagonists are tinged with darkness.. The antagonists show glimmers of righteousness.. The gods are machiavellian..
The Last Kaurava reimagines the final days of a key character in the epic - Devarat Bhishma (the grand marshall pivotal to the war, caught between his love for one warring faction and his oath to protect the other). With a beautiful narrative framework it delves into the path that led to the war. The seeds of which were sown not in the childhood of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, but generations earlier.
I love the little details about how the story is told.. It takes us back in time.. It makes us see the Mahabharata not as spectators from afar, but from up close.. It transports us to the tent in the dusty Indian plain where the mighty general lies on his deathbed.. It provides a textured look into the old soul's last helpless days and sheds light on various formative events of his youth and adulthood.
It also puts forth a brave alternate hypothesis on the root cause for the war. A scenario based on ecological changes and mass migrations resulting from those changes. In that sense it is also a novel that makes us think deeply about contemporary issues like climate change and the impact on immigration on society.
At the beginning of the book there is a quote by A.K. Ramanujan:
"If there are three hundred Ramayanas... there might be three thousand or thirty thousand Mahabharatas."
I commend Mr. Kamesh Ramakrishna for a brave attempt at the thirty thousand and first Mahabharata!