Karna’s Wife

What do I write about this book? As the title suggests, this book is from the perspective of Karna’s second wife, Uruvi, the princess of Pukeya. Pardon me for not having the map of Aryavrata (Bharata) at disposal. I realize that a map helps a lot to check Hastinapur and other surrounding kingdoms. Coming back to the book, it highlights Karna from a different perspective, through the eyes of his second wife Uruvi, the first one being Vrushali. It looks at the characters of Mahabharata through another view. Many questions arise after the completion of the book. According to me, a few questions that make me ponder are: Could the war have been avoided? Who was responsible for the great war of Kurukshetra? Was Duryodhana the main reason behind the great war or was he a mere pawn? Who is supposed to be blamed for Mahabharata? Are the characters protagonists or antagonists?

Plot: Princess Uruvi, the princess of Pukeya, has decided to go against her parents’ wishes of getting married to a high lord/king. She prefers to choose Karna – a sutaputra (birth in low caste) who is King of Anga, as her husband. She doesn’t hesitate to speak out her mind. She doesn’t care about the consequences. She doesn’t worry about the humiliation that she would attract in her lifetime. The story revolves around her being the main character and her relationships with other characters in Mahabharata. She is a strong headed woman who would not flinch at back answering people.

The book starts with Uruvi often dreaming about Karna, the first time she saw him at the archery contest in Hastinapur and her decision to choose Karna as her husband in swayamwara. She cajoles, coaxes, rebels with her parents to support her decision who finally relents to her wishes. The swayamwara is supposed to be better in arrangements than Draupadi’s swayamwara. Princes and Kings from various kingdoms arrive with the hope of being chosen as Uruvi’s husband. Everybody along with Arjuna, the 3rd Pandava prince, full of overconfidence about being the chosen one receive the shock of their lives when Uruvi garlands Karna. Life seems to have come to a full circle for Karna and Arjuna as the former felt insulted at Draupadi’s swayamwara and the latter goes through the same emotion during Uruvi’s.

As the book progresses, Uruvi learns more about Karna, his family, his friends, his foes and the inevitable war of Kurukshetra. What surprises the readers is the portrayal of the characters like Vrushali, Bhanumati, Ashwatthama, Duryodhana, Bhishma Pitamah, Draupadi and… Kunti through a different perspective.

My Take: While the book is a good read for people interested in the shorter version of Mahabharata, it portrays quite a few central characters in a bad light (which the writer justifies). Many surprises spring as the book progresses, the major one being Draupadi’s love for Karna (Oh! Here goes the spoiler!)

Uruvi, from my point of view, is an arrogant, bossy, egoistic lady who has no qualms in disrespecting elders. She may be beauty-with-brains material but what she lacks the most is lack of temperament and judgment. It’s either her way or highway! She believes in ‘give it back’ attitude irrespective of consequences. Her ego doesn’t let her use the forget-and-forgive approach. Her words sting like poisonous insect rather than soothe like a balm.

On the other hand, Vrushali (in a minuscule role) oozes a calm influence over Karna, her family and the reader as well. It seems logical why Mahabharata versions choose  Vrushali over Uruvi as Karna’s wife.

By the end of the book, the respect for Karna increases by leaps and bounds, who is the epitome of friendship and righteousness (even though he chooses to be on the evil side). Karna, by far, is the greatest man, the unsung/tragic hero of Mahabharata who has been vilified right from birth till death.

Peace, Poetry and Power

Bhavin Shah