CHENNAI: If the Indian epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata - had not been re-imagined and retold multiple times, they wouldn’t have existed today, said Kavita Kane, bestselling author of ‘Karna’s Wife’ and ‘Sita’s Sister’, at an event called ‘A Tryst with the Ramayana’, organised by The New Indian Express group in Chennai, on Sunday. She was in conversation with pianist and music educationist Anil Srinivasan.
The event also saw the launch of the book ‘Ramayana-Stories for the Young’, a book by TV Narayanaswamy, published by Pinnacle Books, an imprint that is published as part of the Express group.
Asked if mythology is mostly a myth or primarily a reality, she was quick to say they were epics that reflected the socio-political and geographical realities of that time. “For instance, Mithila and Ayodhya that are mentioned in the epic exist for real. All those people existed and so did their ideas. As an author, the fiction part comes while reinterpreting and delivering the story,” said Kane.
Anil concurred with her, putting in his two cents, that Kurukshetra, which is a very real place today, was the site of a lot of mythology. “We even have temples where significant events are ‘believed’ to have taken place. The line between reality and imagination is often blurred,” he said.
The conversation then turned to how the epics are so contemporary in nature that they deal with the same issues most people deal with today - land, patriarchy, sibling rivalry - all of it led to war then and disputes now. “It all stems from a sense of possessiveness. Man does not want to let go of what he possesses first, whether it is a house or land. Also, this is the point where the hierarchy rises... from land to basic needs. In today’s times, it leads to an internal war of anger, jealousy and hate,” said Kané.
Talking about the consistent theme of women being characters of influence in the epics, Kane reflected how much she had gleaned about the epics from her own grandmother. Anil chipped in with a smart riposte about how grandmothers today didn’t quite have the time to pass these stories on to their young, “probably because they’re busy watching soaps on TV,” he said jocularly.
Kane, however, related a personal story about how her bestseller ‘Karna’s Wife’ was the result of a silly question she asked her grandmother as a child “After I heard the tale, I asked her how Karna could face his wife after the way he treated Draupadi. Though my (Kane’s) grandmother shushed me, it ended up being pages and pages of my first book years later,” she recalls. She also said that her first book was what gave her courage to work on the story of Urmila, Sita’s sister.
Some of the people who were present at the well-attended event were Mohammed Asif Ali, Dewan to the Nawab of Arcot, Kumar Jayanth, Handloom Secretary, Mangat Ram Sharma, Higher Education Secretary, Professor J Ranganathan, Honorary Consul to the Government of Myanmar and Sumit Sharan, IG (Enforcement).
Passing on the stories to young ones
Talking about the consistent theme of women being characters of influence in the epics, Kavita Kane reflected how much she had gleaned about the epics from her own grandmother. Anil chipped in with a riposte about how grandmothers today didn’t quite have the time to pass these stories on to their young, “probably because they’re busy watching soaps on TV,” he said jocularly.