BLF2020 | Modern Perspectives on the Mahabharata – Krishna Udayasankar and Madhavi Mahadevan

Mahabharata, the Indian epic, has us all intrigued for ages with various questions about life, karma, dharma, and bhakti. The writers on the stage, Krishna Udayasankar and Madhavi Mahadevan were so intrigued that they have written books about certain characters on their journey to unleash the answers about the Mahabharata.

On the first day of the Bangalore Literature Festival 2020, we had two writers on the stage, Krishna, a renowned author of the ‘Chronicles of Aryavarta,’ and several other books; and Madhavi, a book critic and writer of children’s stories and short stories. She has written two books based on the characters of the Mahabharata. These ladies spoke about their take on modern perspectives on the Mahabharata, that is, how is the 2000 year old epic relevant now?

To this, Krishna answered that people don’t change throughout ages. She further explained that the socio-technical perspectives change, times change, resources change, but people remain the same. Like the canvas of the painting changes, colours change, but the characters stay the same. To which Madhavi agreed. Madhavi further added that because Mahabharata is so honest and presented the way it is, it is widely accepted. It is not like the characters are entirely right or entirely devil. There are greyed characters too, neither black nor white. Madhavi feels that Mahabharata is an aid to questions like, Who am I? What is my purpose? And what is the right thing to do?

Krishna now asked Madhavi what drew her towards writing on the mythical tales around Mahabharata? Madhavi graciously answered that she came across women characters that stood their ground in a man’s world who did not give up on their self-worth and fought for what is right. These women characters, often called ‘Pancha Kanya’, inspired her and drew her towards writing about Mahabharata. The five women referred to as Pancha Kanya are Kunti, Draupadi, Ahalya, Tara, and Mandodari.

Krishna now answered why she was driven towards writing Mahabharata. She says that she first attempted poetry in her starting days of writing, and it turned out that she was terrible at it. Later, she tried to write a satire on the Mahabharata and stumbled on the character Govinda (Krishna/Vasudev). She said that the personality of Govinda wasn’t easy to decipher and write about. This is where she pushed her boundaries, explored more, and wrote the chronicles on Govinda.

Madhavi asked how it was to explore a male character and write about a divine persona. Krishna elaborated that in her books, Govinda is not divine and is a normal human being. The books are a narrative of how an average person turns out to be so extraordinary. Also, gender hadn’t got anything to do with her style of writing.

Madhavi presented her take on it as it was somewhat challenging to write about women characters because it was an age of patriarchy. She was overwhelmed with the Pancha Kanya that they had so much endurance and perseverance towards achieving what they believed in.

They concluded their discussion that the Pancha Kanya and the men of Mahabharat are relevant even today. Not just the characters but the acts of violence against women, injustice, and many other things are relevant today. Amongst this, it is paramount to draw one lesson: to look at the larger picture always, just like Govinda looked at the revolution of justice that they were creating even at the cost of blood spillage.

About the Author: Puja Ambalgekar is an IT employee who finds writing, reading, and books in general as an outer space experience. She believes that words have the power to make the difference you intend to. She likes writing poetry, mythology, and technology. You can find her here. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Like what you just read? Become TheSeer Insider. You will be receiving one letter from us every Friday to help you spend a more mindful day and make the best of your weekend. Enter your email id below and click on subscribe. We won’t spam you, ever!

BLF2020 | Crime and the City – Rachna Singh, V Sanjay Kumar and Zac O’Yeah with Krishna Udayasankar

The moderator for the session Crime and the city was Krishna Udayasankar who is known for her amazing works like The Aryavata Chronicles, Immortal, and Objects of affection. The panel included Rachna Singh, V. Sanjay Kumar, and Zach O’Yeah. Rachna Singh is a humour writer who was born and brought up in Allahabad. Her debut “Dating, Diapers and Denial” has earned good reviews from readers across the globe. V. Sanjay Kumar, is a Bangalore-based writer. His works include The Third Squad, Virgin Gingelly, and Artist, Undone. Zach O’Yeah is a crime novelist who has published 18 books of which many are bestsellers. He is also a literary critic, playwright, performer, director, and musician.

The session kick-started with Krishna Udayasankar asking “Why the city or place plays a major role in crime writing?” Sanjay Kumar has brilliantly answered it by sharing his first memory of the crime and his experiences related to white-collared crimes in Mumbai. Zach O’Yeah felt that sometimes it’s difficult to translate crime writings from one language to another language as the nature of crime differs from one place to another place and he strongly stated that the city plays a major role in shaping crimes and criminals. He said that the cultural aspects of India set it apart from other countries. He believes that every writing reflects a particular culture and because of those cultural differences, there cannot be a generic city. He further added that because of all these factors, ‘where the plot is set’ is as important as the plot itself in a crime novel. Following up on the conversation, Rachna Singh shared her views about the same by sharing her thoughts on cities like Allahabad and Mumbai.

According to Sanjay Kumar, the most important part of crime writing is not just describing the city but it’s more about the set of characters the city creates. He shared some interesting things about a few characters from his previous books to give some insights into how the city plays a crucial role in building the mindsets of individuals. Making the conversation more interesting, Zach O’Yeah shared about his travel writing job, mentioning how he enjoys exploring different cities and writing about them. He especially talked about how amused he was while travelling in Bangalore and getting to know a wide range of fascinating things about it. He made a valuable point by saying “When it comes to novels, it’s different. It’s not like ‘my city’ I am talking about in my writings but I am talking about a city from the point of view of the person in the book. It is what makes things more challenging as a fiction writer; the need to write from a general perspective. Also, what defines a city is how comfortable it is for other people, the ones who are not as privileged as you are. We should think with intellectual empathy.”

The session had its fair share of laughter when Krishna Udayasankar asked everyone to describe different cities in a single word. All the panel members displayed a great sense of humor and came up with the funniest responses.

The next part of the session saw Sanjay Kumar reading an excerpt from his latest book and expressing his thoughts about it. Later, Zach O’Yeah pointed out that there are neither completely black characters nor completely white characters in his books; it’s always a mixture of them, all characters are grey.

The session ended with panel members discussing contemporary crimes and the way they affect the style of crime writing.

About the Author: Sai Pradeep is an aspiring writer from Visakhapatnam who recently published his first collection of poetry, All the lights within us. He is working as a content writer in Bangalore. He currently writes for TheSeer.