The untold story of the divine nymph Menaka who is both sensual and spiritual, who loves and looses, sacrifices and seduces. A poignant tale of an apsara’s choices who is not a lowly seductress, as popular portrayal would have us believe, but a woman of dignity , courage and above all self respect and compassion.
Though set in surreal surroundings and in an epic era, Kavita Kane unveils the character of a strong woman who is truly a woman of substance. Whether it is being aware of her own sexuality which she uses subtly to win an argument with Indra or the raw anger with which she exposes his devious means in banishing her love Vasu, she comes across as a woman who is prepared to face the wrath of a king to stand up for herself, for truth and love. She is not merely a divine dancer who “loves and leaves”, but a woman who has the courage of conviction, for whom conscience and honor are paramount. Her declaration that she will not adorn Indra’s court with her dancing, but that he will “pine for her..” , brings out the fiery character of a woman who had loved truly and lost. A woman born from the mind of Brahma- a ravishing beauty but who is exceptionally intelligent.
Her “choice” to help Indra in accepting his mission to seduce Vishwamitra, makes the reader wonder for a moment why she would accept to do something for a conniving king who was responsible for her loosing her love and her child. Was it revenge or ruse ? Was she just following her dharma? You can read and have your own opinion about it. It has layers of emotion wrapped in evocative storytelling!
The famous seduction of Vishwamitra, unlike popular belief unfolds as a beautiful story of true love and an ultimate sacrifice. A love that gives more than it takes, a strength that spurs Vishwamitra on a journey to becoming a Bramharishi.
Many more instances of her motherly care, her passionate and true love for Vishwamitra, her anger when she hears of the violation of Rambha by Ravana, all illustrate her almost “human” side.
Our epics are rich and lend themselves to retelling and reinterpretation, but Kavita Kane’s characterization and retelling whether it is in Karna’s wife Sita’s sister or Menaka’s Choice endows the personality with values and emotions that one can relate to easily- they seem like women from real life -you can almost reach out and touch them
Its a must read for all who love Indian fiction.