Tuesday, 26 May 2015

AJAYA Book I – Roll of the Dice

During my childhood, I used to read one of the greatest of Indian epics, the Mahabharata, in Telugu, as a comic-book in black-on-white (Balala Bommala Bharatamu - బాలల బొమ్మల భారతము). I lost count of how many times I read it, never getting satiated.

There were heroes, there were villains, there were heroines, there were Gods and angels; all characters clearly etched, leaving no room for doubt. The Pandavas were the heroes, despite the subterfuges they indulged in, in the name of dharma. The Kauravas were the villains, despite the noble acts they committed. The heroines were chaste, despite being promiscuous, power-hungry, and polyandrous. No questions asked. No answers given.

Right through my life, from childhood until now, I have been hearing people - erudite savants - categorise the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, as the treatise on politics and power, but I have never looked at it from that angle, having accepted the “uncritical conventional renderings of the epic” handed down from generation to generation.

It is in this back ground and mindset that I read the book “Ajaya Book I – Roll of the Dice” by Mr. Anand Neelakantan.

How do I find it? Simply, brilliant.

The language is flowery, as is befitting the epic that it is. The descriptive prose is meticulous with an uncanny eye for detail. The storytelling is masterly, making the book a compelling page-turner. Well, all this is in the realm of the mundane. Is it controversial? Of course it is. The angle from which he looks at the epic makes it so - from the “villain’s” point of view. “Nothing succeeds like success,” is the adage. It was true in Dur(Su)yodhana’s case. It is true today.

However, the greatest achievement of the author is the demythologising of the characters, the significant incidents, and the story itself. I see that a lot of research has gone into the work. The power play, the caste equations, the class prejudices, the political manoeuvres, the interpretation of raja dharma by various players to suit their needs, have all been brilliantly depicted through the narration, giving the reader a glimpse of the goings-on behind the royal curtains. This has unequivocally exhibited why this great epic is still topical.

One issue that is a little jarring (to me) is the frequent references to India as one united nation during the ancient Mahabharata times; the ancient name of Jambu Dweepa or Bharata Khanda or Bharata Varsha might have been more appropriate. This, along with some modern-day expressions and grammatical errors, mentioning which will be inappropriate in the context of the excellence of the work, are the minor faults I could see.

I congratulate Leadstart Publishing for bringing out this excellent work and the author for creating it.

I wish Mr. Anand Neelakantan would, even if temporarily, loan me his magical literary quill.

Saturday, 2 May 2015


Definition of “rape” in Indian Penal Code:

A man is said to commit "rape" who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:
  1. Against her will. 
  2. Without her consent. 
  3. With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.
  4. With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
  5. With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent. 
  6. With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.
  • Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape. 
  • Exception - Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.]

Pay attention to point 6b, which says, “Exception: Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”

This gives rise to several vital issues:

  • It is unconstitutional since it discriminates against a certain “class” of women called “wife”, whereas all are said to be equal in the eyes of our Constitution.
  • While a woman is said to be protected from all forms of domestic violence – physical, mental, verbal – she is not, from this form of violence that her husband perpetrates against her! Why? Is this not “violence”? Or, does the husband have some divine right over her body and soul?
  • It unequivocally exhibits age-old male arrogance and chauvinism, anachronistic in today’s world, in that it defines the role of woman as the vassal of man.


This, again, gives rise to several vital issues:

  • Is it the sole responsibility of the wife to uphold ‘family honour’?
  • Must she surrender herself even to ‘rape’ to avoid “great stress to her family”? While she has protection against ‘domestic violence’, even from her husband, she has none whatsoever if he chooses to ‘rape’ her!

From time immemorial, woman has been nothing but the vassal of man. She continues to be so, even in the twenty-first century!

Just imagine what could happen if the definition of rape is to include marital rape. A husband forcing sex on his lawfully wedded wife can be booked for rape! The question that arises is whether it is bad. Is it the duty of a woman to have sex even if she is unwilling, just to avoid “great stress to the family system”? How something that is a crime in the case of other women is not a crime in the case of a wife? Does it not come under domestic violence?

We do not have a Ram Mohan Roy, who emancipated women from the evil of sati. We do not have a Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, who, along with his wife, Savitribai Phule, pioneered women's education. All we have today are male chauvinists, who belong to medieval times, at the helm of organisations and affairs, governing us and making laws that govern us. The appalling disrespect they display even on the hallowed floor of our parliament is evidence enough. It is a pity our women parliamentarians are party to it, too. The innumerable inhuman and heinous crimes against women and female children have failed to open the eyes of the lawmakers.

A Kiran Bedi, a Kiran Majumdar Shaw, a Chandra Kochar, et al are but a collective, insignificant droplet in the ocean called our society. Things are changing, only seemingly.

The more things change the more they stay the same, they say. How true!