Karna's Wife : The Outcast Queen - Kavita Kane

 Title : Karna's Wife : The Outcast Queen
Author : Kavita Kane
First Published : 2013
Publisher : Rupa Publications
Page : 318

In Karna, she had found an appearance and personality so close to perfection that she could convince herself that her quest had been fulfilled. That man from nowhere had created a tumult in her heart each time he had strung his bow

Oh I can’t describe how much I love this book. I always adore Karna. I grew up reading Mahabharata and Karna has always been my favorite. I think Karna is a very complex character. Yes, he was wrong because he stood for the wrong side, but it couldn’t nullify the fact that He is indeed a loyal friend, a brave warrior, a just king, a generous person, a devoted son, a man of dharma. I always think that he was just a victim of circumstances, or of other people’s mistake. Yes he was arrogant and so proud of his archery skill, but so did Arjuna, and it is fact that Karna was a great archer, maybe even better than Arjuna. Yes, Karna was hunger of social acknowledgement, but if someone had a kavach and kundal attached to his body that radiate the light of Lord Surya, had a wonderful archery skill that surpassed all of The Kuru Princes but always rejected by the society for being a sutaputra, who wouldn’t? It hurt to read about a great man depicted as antagonist because he befriended the bad guy of the story.. But in this book, thankfully, Karna is described as a flawed yet gorgeous gentleman, something that I’ve known all along. I’m happy to finally read a book that explore the good side of this unsung hero.

The story of his life was a fairy tale gone wrong

This story was told from the point of view of Karna’s wife, Uruvi. Uruvi was a royal Pukeya princess, she spent her childhood playing with The Kuru Princes. Her mother was a good friend of Kunti, the mother of Pandawa. Both mother agreed that they wanted Uruvi to marry Arjuna someday. Uruvi also believed she would be Arjuna’s bride until one day, he saw Karna. The Kuru Princes just came back from Guru Drona’s training and they were exhibiting their talents to the people. Arjuna, Guru Drona’s favourite student, had been declared as the best archer in the world. But then, Karna suddenly showed up. He challenged Arjuna that he would show everything Arjuna had shown but in a better technique. Karna succeeded. Uruvi fell in love with Karna instantly. Eventhough it was revealed right after that Karna is a suta putra,  and Uruvi had to challenge the world to be with him.

Uruvi invited Karna to her syawamwara and she expressed her desire to marry Karna to his parents. They didn’t approve, of course, it was not acceptable for a Ksathriya princess to marry a sutaputra. Besides, Karna was a friend of Duryodhana whom her father disliked for his adharma behavior. Furthermore, everybody had expected Arjuna to marry Uruvi. Arjuna even loved his childhood friend Uruvi. But Uruvi was a determined girl. She loved Karna and she wanted to be with him. In her syawamwara, he finally chose Karna over Arjuna despite the rejection from the society. Little did she know that her decision marked a new beginning in the tension between the archenemies Karna and Arjuna.

It was easy to fall in love with Karna, Uruvi decided, but it was difficult convincing others about its judiciousness

Uruvi led a happy life with Karna, despite married to a low caste person. She’s out casted from her social life, she’s no longer a Ksathriya princess but a sutaputra’s wife . She had a good relationship with Radha and Adhirata, her in laws, and even with Vrushali, Karna’s first wife. And most importantly, Karna loved her, she was his favorite. But she knew her happiness wouldn’t last long. She knows Karna’s friendhip with Duryodhana would be his undoing. Uruvi tried to talk some sense into him but it’s useless. Karna felt deep gratitude for Duryodhana who had acknowledge him for his merit and capabilities, not for his caste. Uruvi loved Karna deeply, Uruvi changed Karna’s life to the better, but Karna’s loyalty to Duryodhana was something out of her control.

There are a lot of interesting thing in this book. Firstly, it is a love story. In spite of taking Mahabharata universe as the setting, this book basically is a love story between Uruvi and Karna. I love how the writer portrayed Karna’s relationship with Uruvi. It’s sweet. You know, all this time we only see him as Duryodhana’s ally and as Arjuna’s archenemies. But in this book, Kavita Kane explored another side of Karna  as a husband, as a friend. I can’t help but fell in love over and over again with this Karna when I read this book.

No, not the wrong man, the wronged man (Uruvi on Karna)

Secondly, Uruvi is a fictional character. Story about Karna’s wife never appeared in the original story. In fact, a lot of people think that Karna was a bachelor. No, he was not a bachelor, he had eight or nine kids and possibly two or three wives. The writer succeeded to create a good story aboout Karna through Uruvi’s characterization as a Ksathriya Princess. It really intensed the drama. But don’t worry, the fact that Uruvi is a fictional character doesn’t change anything about the original story. I even think telling the story of Mahabharata through Uruvi’s eyes gave me a new feeling, a new perspective that I didn’t pay enough attention to before.

Third, just like what Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni did in The Palace of Illusions, Kavita Kane tried to humanize all the character in this book. And by humanize I mean that Pandawa isn’t white and Duryodhana isn’t completely black. I understand it’s hard to tell the goodness of Karna without antagonizing Arjuna. And yes, in some part of the story Uruvi thinks that Arjuna was a spoiled kids that couldn’t accept defeat and acknowledged Karna’s superiority. And the fact that the Pandawa didn’t do anything in Draupadi’s disrobing made her furious. Duryodhana was still the bad guy and Uruvi hated his relationship with her husband. But here, Duryodhana had his reason to be evil. And the fact that he’s so thirsty of the throne didn’t change another fact that he was a good father and he loved Karna deeply as his friend. And I think this was the first time I read someone wrote something good about Aswathama. I loathed him forever for killing the defenseless Dhristadyumna, Sikhandhi and Draupadi’s five sons. But here, Kavita kane described Ashwathama as a shy young Brahmin who faced injustice. All of his life, he had to cope with his father (Drona) favoritism toward Arjuna. I felt pity for Aswathama here. Really nice writing technique from the writer to make me who always detest Aswathama, loved his character in this book.

Karna is known for his goodness, his kindness, his righteousness. And honestly, the one person whom I thought would come to my help would be him. But he did not. I didn't expect my husbands to get me out of the situation for they had got me into this nightmare in the first place. (Panchali to Uruvi)

Fourth, this book is really full of emotion. I had this lump in my throat for a whole week after reading this book. It was just so sad I could die. I cried every single time I read about Karna’s death in every interpretation of Mahabharata I had read and I cried again this time. I felt like a part of me died with him in the Kurukshetra war. In fact, every moment in this book made me felt something. I was angry when Karna took part in Draupadi’s disrobing. I was sad when Karna found out who was his birth mother. I was proud every single time Karna showed generousity. I even blushed a little in every romantic scene between Karna and Uruvi. Kavita kane did a great job describing all the emotion in this book.

But what I love the most from this book is the fact that Kavita Kane did a full justice for Karna’s character. Her description of Karna was very similar to everything I’ve ever imagined about this great man.  I don’t mean to exaggerate but this book fulfilled all of my expectation from a book about my favourite hero. And by the way, this book is very nicely written too.  It’s fiction but it doesn’t go too far from the original universe. The writer managed to keep all the original character’s traits on the right track without blurring the fact of Mahabharata as we know it. She has done a great job combining fact and fiction in this piece of art. If I had 1000 thumbs, I would give it all for this book. I highly reccomend this for all Karna shipper like myself. And by the way, if I had the chance to choose Karna as my husband like Uruvi, I definitely wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I am not ashamed to have fallen in love with Karna. And if it's going to be a mistake, I think I have enough courage in me to tackle the worst moments as and when I come across them one day.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the good word! Hope you enjoy Sita's Sister and the forthcoming Menaka's Choice to be out by December.