The Palace of Illusions

The Mistress of Spices – My thoughts

spicesAuthor – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Blurb: Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, The Mistress of Spices is the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time, in a faraway place, who is trained in the ancient art of spices and ordained as a mistress charged with special powers.  Once fully initiated in a rite of fire, the now immortal Tilo–in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman–travels through time to Oakland, California, where she opens a shop from which she administers spices as curatives to her customers.  An unexpected romance with a handsome stranger eventually forces her to choose between the supernatural life of an immortal and the vicissitudes of modern life.  Spellbinding and hypnotizing, The Mistress of Spices is a tale of joy and sorrow and one special woman’s magical powers. (more…)

WWW Wednesday (24/07/2013) – Vol. 5


 (click on the pic above to reach MizB)

Hello everyone! This weekly book meme is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. To play along, we just have to answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?

• What did you recently finish reading?

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading “Tick-Tock we’re 30” by Milan Vohra. The author was named as the first writer from India by Mills & Boons. 🙂 I found this book in my book-shelf the other day when I was arranging my books. I had bought it sometime back and had forgotten all about it. I also picked up this book as I was in the mood to read something light. So far, its good. Click on the pic below to reach the Goodreads page for the book.

tick tock

I recently finished reading “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I was gifted this book by a friend on my birthday last month & I would like to thank her a lot for this wonderful gift. I loveddd the book. 🙂 My thoughts on the book are here. 1774836

Regarding the book I will read next, I always give the name of some books and end up reading something else. 😛 Anyways, my next-to-be-read book might be one of the following – The Legend of Amrapali by Anurag Anand, Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Spark, The House with a Thousand Stories by Aruni Kashyap (plot based on my home state, Assam) & Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel. So time will tell which one I feel picking up for my next read. 🙂


 WWW Wednesday is a great way to discover new books. So friends, feel free to leave your links to your WWW Wednesday posts or your comments (if you don’t have a blog), so that I can check out what you’re reading. Till then, happy reading! 🙂


The Palace of Illusions


Author – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I received this book as birthday gift from a dear friend. Having read a lot of good reviews about the book, I was eager to read it. First of all I would like to applaud the writer, C.B. Divakaruni, for just coming out with the idea of a book on the epic, the Mahabharata, from the viewpoint of the most important woman in the story- Draupadi / Panchaali. Now Mahabharata is an integral part of Indian culture and history for thousands of years. Grandpas and Grandmas love to quote incidents from this epic to teach their grandchildren how good always prevail over evil (the great war of Kurukshetra, which is the setting for the most religious of Hindu scriptures- the Bhagwad Gita). I have fond memories of watching the serial (huddling in front of the TV on Sundays) as well as reading comics & books, on this epic.

In the epic, though substantial importance to women is given, the roles of the men are more glorified, specially the Pandavas. The Palace of Illusions deviates from this and tries to tell the story from the viewpoint of Panchaali, who is one of the most mysterious characters in the grand epic. She and her brother were born out of a hunger for revenge and to satiate their father’s ego – King Draupad. She had a tricky marriage to five men, the five Pandava brothers & was passed around from brother to brother, every year.

In the book, Divakaruni portrays Panchaali, in spite of all the odds, as a powerful, strong, and independent woman, with an opinion of her own on matters & subjects around her. She presents Panchali’s life as a series of choices made by Panchaali, and not the people around her, giving her a voice in the overwhelmingly patriarchal society that was ancient India.

Though Panchali was never raped, she received more than enough of her share of unwanted advances by men, a phenomenon that seems to be prevalent even in today’s society. While reading the novel, it was easy to relate to such events in Panchaali’s life, and while she was courageous enough to fight off her offenders, nowadays such instances are so common that most women’s instincts are to ignore such advances or silently endure it. Though numerous years and generations separate contemporary life from Panchaali’s, her life’s events are surprisingly similar to the many trials and tribulations faced by today’s women.

In the book, though the focus is on Panchali’s life, Divakaruni is careful to include the stories of the other strong female characters, not just as Panchaali’s rivals, but also as strong role-models (for Panchaali and others alike). Divakaruni portrays, at length, the story of Kunti, Panchali’s mother-in-law, who devoted her life to the upbringing of her own sons and the sons of her husband’s second wife, making sure to treat them all equally, and grooming them to become kings. She also mentions the story of Gandhari, the wife of the blind king Dhritarashtra, who blindfolds herself at her marriage, choosing to live as an equal to her husband, surrendering her power as a queen and mother. Divakaruni portrays the stories of all these women as conscious choices made by them, not as roles handed to them by society or by the men in their lives. These women chose the lives that they lived, and did not simply walk into them.

I was quite mesmerized about the unspoken love between Panchaali & Karna. Panchaali was attracted to Karna since the day of her Swayamvar & might have chosen him if not for Krishna & her brother’s words. This angle has not been focused in the original epic and kept me wondering – is it possible that this was true? I can only wonder. :/

Also, the beautiful friendship of Panchaali & Krishna was something I enjoyed in the book. Krishna came in at every important point of her life, giving her advice & solace too, and often his ambiguous words kept her thinking long after he was gone. He had his secret connection with everyone she knew, and it seemed to her that He shared a special bond with everyone she thought she knew completely. But Krishna managed to make her believe she was his dearest friend of all. He referred to her as ‘sakhi’ and better yet, ‘Krishnaa’, the female version of His own name making her believe He loved her most dearly.

The greatest strength of the book is that it does not consist of kings, demi-gods or princes. It provides a humanistic touch to the epic, making it more realistic, more relatable, and more personal.

It’s said that only a woman can understand another woman’s feelings, pains and sorrow, and I think, after finishing the book, it’s true with me and Panchaali’s story. A must read.

Some lines of the book I loved:-

  • Above us our palace waits, the only one I’ve ever needed. Its walls are space; its floor is sky, its center everywhere. We rise; the shapes cluster around us in welcome, dissolving and forming again like fireflies in a summer evening ~ Panchaali
  • A problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so. And often others see you as you see yourself. ~ Krishna
  • And the mother, who through all the years of her hardship had never shed a tear, wept at his trust and her deception.
  • In the sandalwood days of love I had thought that if I could not have Salva, I would die. Now I discovered that a woman’s life is tougher than a banyan root, which exists without soil or water ~ Sikhandi
  • …….the power of a man is like a bull’s charge, while the power of a woman moves aslant, like a serpent seeking its prey. Know the particular properties of your power. Unless you use it correctly, it wont get you what you want. ~ Sikhandi.
  • ………Distance is a great promoter of harmony: a fact that women who find themselves in situations similar to mine should keep in mind ~ Panchaali
  • A situation in itself, he said is neither happy nor unhappy. It’s only your response to it that causes to your sorrow……….. ~ Krishna
  • Trying to show u something. The stick (half burned) – it scared you, right? It may even have hurt you, if you hadn’t been so quick. But look – in trying to burn you, its consuming itself. That’s what happens to a heart-…………………… ~ Krishna
  • What is more numerous than the grass? – The thoughts that rise in the mind of man.Who is truly wealthy? – That man to whom the agreeable and disagreeable, wealth & woe, past and future, are the same.What is the most wondrous thing on earth? – Each day countless humans enter the Temple of death, yet the ones left behind continue to live as though they were immortal. ~ Yudhisthir
  • Just as we cast off worn clothes and wear new ones, when the time arrives, the soul casts off the body and finds a new one to work out its karma. Therefore the wise grieve neither for the living nor the dead. ~ Krishna
  • When Arjun asked why man found himself driven to wrongdoing in spite of good intentions, Krishna replied, Because of anger and desire, our two direst enemies.
  • I wasn’t ready to let go of my life. How amazing it seemed to me with its victories, its adventures, its moments of glory. Even the shame that had struck like hot iron, branding revenge into my brain, seemed suddenly precious in its uniqueness. I wanted to live it all again – with more wisdom this time! ~ Panchaali

This review has been submitted as a part of my Indian Quills Challenge 2013 (read about the challenge here)

WWW Wednesday (26/06/2013) – Vol. 3

www_wednesdays43(click on the pic above to reach MizB)

Hello everyone! This is my 3rd WWW Wednesday post. 🙂

This weekly book meme is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. To play along, we just have to answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading the “The Homing Pigeons” by Sid Bahri.

The Homing Pigeons Cover ok

I came to know about this book in many blogs. Having started the book just yesterday I cannot really comment on the book now. Nonetheless the blurb of the book is given below:

In the middle of the catastrophic 2008 recession, Aditya, a jobless, penniless man meets an attractive stranger in a bar, little does he know that his life will change forever…..
When Radhika, a young, rich widow, marries off her stepdaughter, little does she know that the freedom that she has yearned for is not exactly how she had envisioned it…..
They say Homing Pigeons always come back to their mate, no matter where you leave them on the face of this earth. Homing Pigeons is the story of love between these two unsuspecting characters as it is of lust, greed, separations, prejudices and crumbling spines.

I recently finished reading two books –

i. The Other Side of the Table by Madhumita Mukherjee – I was a bit out-of-sync with the medical jargons but other than that, for me, the book was an easy read. The myriad of emotions are conveyed with a sense of maturity. We can actually witness the lives of Abhi & Uma growing and changing over the years. One of the best things about the book for me is the feeling of subtleness, without any piece of melodrama.

It’s a lovely & mature story told well. A definite must-read. Review here.

otherside of table

ii. If it’s not Forever, it’s not Love by Durjoy Dutta & Nikita Singh – This is the first book written by Durjoy Dutta & Nikita Singh that I’ve read. The beginning of the book was interesting, in the middle it got a little boring but slowly the pace picked up & the end was satisfactory.

However, the repetitive portions about Avantika were a little more than necessary. Also, Dev and Avantika’s love is narrated many times, which I felt was not so necessary for the main plot.


Regarding the book I will read next, I have three books that I received as my birthday presents. I am excited about all three of them. So which one I will pick amongst them, only time will tell. The books I have are:

New Folder1

  1. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  2. The Legend of Amrapali by Anurag Anand
  3. Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Spark

WWW Wednesday is a great way to discover new books. So friends, feel free to leave your links to your WWW Wednesday posts or your comments (if you don’t have a blog), so that I can check out what you’re reading.

Till then, happy reading! 🙂

Images: Goodreads