Sunday, July 23, 2023

Book Review: The Deceived Womb by Deepak Kaul

 Sometime back, I reviewed a short novel by Deepak Kaul that was based on the Mahabharata titled Fate Eclipsed, which was essentially a character study of Karna, the eldest Pandava, who was dumped by his mother and grew up alongside their enemies. When he wrote his next book, titled The Deceived Womb, which is based on the character Abhimanyu, Writer's Melon was gracious enough to provide me with an eBook for my feedback.

The Deceived Womb is also a novelette written in the same style as his previous book. It contains four chapters and tries to decipher the character of Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra, nephew of Krishna, husband of Uttara, and father of Parikshit. Compared to Karna, on whom the previous book was based, Abhimanyu is a minor, though immensely tragic, character in the Mahabharata. It works in favour of the writer, as there is enough space and potential to explore him.

The book has four chapters, and the first one begins with Abhimanyu inside the womb of his mother, overhearing his parents talking to each other. One of the legends is that he heard Arjuna describe how to break into the chakravyuha style of military formation to his mother, but as Arjuna didn't describe how to exit, he got stuck in the vyuha and was killed during the war. The writer, though, follows Valmiki's version of Mahabharat, where Arjuna teaches him the skill to break into the vyuha but refuses to instruct on the exit strategy due to his overconfidence. But the legend of the womb is also given a nod, as is evident from the title.

The title, The Deceived Womb, is very relevant to the plot of the novel as it starts with Abhimanyu inside the womb, hearing the martial exploits of his father, and believing that war is like an adventurous reality show to show off skills. When he plunges into the carnage of war, ultimately, he realises the deceit and is overwhelmed by the violence and disregard for every rule and fair play. The novel ends in a full circle when Abhimanyu deceives another soul inside the womb by breaking his promise of a triumphant return to his wife Uttara and his unborn child in her womb.

The writer chooses to use a simple language that can be appealing for the latest generation, who are interested in reading about the basics of Indian epics. His characters speak and think like the present crop of professionals and students. Compared to Fate Eclipsed, there is considerable improvement in plotting and narration. I hope that he comes up with a longer novel that is based on the epic.

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