Blog Post: 120th
Book Review: 5th
I have read KARNA’S ALTER EGO by Surendra Nath in October 2015. Actually I wanted to review the book by 15th November, but I couldn’t publish due to my M.A. (English) part I examination. Before scribbling my review, I would like to thank two persons; Yes! First of all I would thank my blogger friend Tushti Bhatia from Author Paradise for her recommendation to read this book, and second one is obviously Author Surendra Nath Mohanty ji. He not only approached my proposal to review this book on my single request but he gave me full liberty to take time and to publish this review. A BIG THANK goes to him.
Detail Analysis/Review and Critical Appreciation of KARNA’S ALTER EGO
[Image: Front and Back cover of Karna’s Alter Ego.]
COVER and TITLE: Karna’s Alter Ego’s cover is designed by Abinash Panda. He designed an attractive cover which is closely relevant to the theme and plot of the book. Blurry face on front cover looks like a facsimile of Vasu’s unknown face.
Title of the book ‘KARNA’S ALTER EGO’ is very eloquent. It is also printed well on the front cover. A conch (Shankh) between ‘ALTER’ and ‘EGO’ grows attractiveness of front cover. One can observe an archer Karna’s bending image taking a bow carved on the conch. On back cover, forewords by Ruskin Bond and Manoj Das are noted above an another image of archer Karna.
BLURB: Karna, the ill-faced hero of Mahabharata. Many feel he deserved to win. If only luck favoured him.
5000 years later, we have man named Vasu, who is much like Karna – born illegitimate, very talented but denied all credits in life, rejected in love, misses a medal in the Asian games, gets caught for telling an innocent lie, overlooked for promotion. He begins to identify himself with Karna, and interestingly Karna appears to him after every debacle to assuage and encourage him.
It seems Vasu is Karna’s alter ego.
“I have been wondering what the genre of this book is. Is it mythological? Or is it social, with a quotidian theme? Perhaps, spiritual or philosophical? May be, a thriller! It’s better you read it and find out yourself.”
- Ruskin Bond
“A work of fiction that tries to connect millennia past with our age. Surendra Nath’s Karna’s Alter Ego deserves tributes that should go to imaginative handling of an unusual plot.”
- Manoj Das
Theme:- Theme of Karna’s Alter Ego is based on Hindu mythology, philosophy, spirituality, social issues and thrill; all the aspects of Karna’s life are connected with Vasu’s life.
Language: Author Surendra Nath used very simple and easy language in Karna’s Alter Ego. However brief narration in middle parts needs to refer a dictionary. Author uses words like ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ (i.e. you and your) from middle/Elizabethan age of English literature to denote quotations from the Mahabharata. Few figurative words used by author are cherry on a cake in Karna’s Alter Ego. First sentence of each chapter starts with CAPITAL letters. There is a proper use of italic fonts to indicate words from regional languages like Hindi, Odishi. Italic font is also used to mention mythological and spiritual words, to emphasize on a sentence and to narrate quotations. In the novel, author uses few abbreviations with their full forms (i.e. RDC- Republic Day Parade, ANO- Associate NCC Officers, IVF- In Vitro Fertilisation, PAP- Prospective Adoptive Parents, IFE- In Flight Executive and ILS- Instrument Landing Systems).
Locations: Plot and story of Karna’s Alter Ego is developed in different locations. Vasu lives his childhood in a village in Nasik (Nashik) district in Maharashtra, Vasu works in Bangalore (Karnataka), Jaipur (Rajasthan) and New Delhi.
Period: Background of the Karna’s Alter Ego’s plot is developed in current age (i.e. 21st century), medieval age and Mahabharata’s period. Karna’s life in unclear period of Mahabharata is significant and reflected with Vasu’s life in 21st century.
Author’s writing style: Author Surendra Nath uses narrative style of writing and this style suits to the theme perfectly. He narrates events in deep; for an instance I would mention an example, to describe a Tilak of sandalwood paste on forehead author writes ‘a Tilak in the shape of large U.’
- FICTITIOUS CHARACTERS:
- Vasu Sen (Vasu): Author sketches a character of Vasu as a central/main character in novel. He is a protagonist. We know the story through Vasu’s organs. It seems Vasu is Karna’s alter ego.
- Mr. Sarathi Sen: Vasu’s father. Author portrays his character as a drunk man, worse husband and a bad father.
- Mrs. Radha Sen: Vasu’s mother. Author portrays Radha’s character as a typical housewife. She represents a common woman who sacrifices everything for her children. Reader finds own mother's image in Radha Sen.
- Birju: Vasu’s younger brother
- Vrinda: Younger sister of Vasu and Birju
- Vishwambhar: Vrinda’s fiancé
- Ravindra Chaudhury: Vasu’s biological father
- Kirti Kumar Desai: Vasu’s competitor in NCC
- Havildar Raghuvir Singh: NCC instructor in Vasu’s government high school. Author portrays his character in favour of Vasu.
- 2 ANOs: 2 Associate NCC Officers
- Principal: Head administrator in Vasu’s government high school. Author portrays his character as partial administrator.
- Savyasachi Mhatre: Vasu’s competitor for the post of school captain.
- Jishnu Agarwal: Vasu’s friend and a senior in college by a year. Jishnu is also known as King Cole (King of College).
- Master: Chief in game of gambling
- Jambura: Character in gambling
- Dealer: Fellow of Master
- Bravo boy: A gambler/ helper of master
- Rajbir: Vasu’s roommate
- Sairandhri (Saira): The College Queen
- Sushree: The refined lady
- Manish: The timid man
- Rekha: The skeleton
- Saira’s father: a businessman
- Deb and Parth Gupta: Vasu’s colleagues in Bangalore
- Dr. Pranab Sahu: a historian
- Asha Rani: A data entry operator in Vasu’s office
- Utkarsh: Asha’s son and a poor boy.
- Phalgun Rai: Manager at HR department
- Vijay Jaiswal: Vasu’s competitor in office.
- Jayappa Moorthy: Chaukidaar(security guard)
- Vrishali: Author introduces her as an assault victim, and then he describes her live in relationship with Vasu
- Ashok: Culprit of Vrishali
- Virat: Adopted son by Vasu and Vrishali
- Mr. and Mrs. Fernandeze: Vasu’s old neighbours in Bangalore
- Angelo: Horse riding trainer (Coach)
- Suyodhan Negi: Horse riding trainer and Vasu’s friend
- Sushobhan Negi: Horse riding trainer
- Colonel Negi: Suyodhan’s father
- Dhananjay Rathore: a Horse rider
- Aditya: a beggar
- Number 1 (Burly George): Chief hijacker
- Number 2: Companion of hijacker
- Number 3: a lady fellow of hijackers
- Captain Arjun Malhotra: Captain in the cockpit
- Co- Pilot
- Veena: In Flight Executive (IFE)
- Mr. Garg: a flight engineer
- Doctor: a doctor in the plane
- INANIMATE CHARACTERS:
- Gypsy: a clock of Vasu
- Mr. Elevan: Eleven number in Vasu’s clock
- CHARACTERS FROM MAHABHARATA:
- Karna: Second central character in the novel. The ill-faced hero of Mahabharata. Many feel he deserved to win. If only luck favoured him.
- Kunti: Karna’s mother
- Arjuna: Listener of Bhagwad Geeta
- Lord Krishna: Narrator of Bhagwad Geeta
- GENERAL PLOT:
Vasu is a protagonist. He is an alter ego of Karna. When Karna answers Vasu’s sensible questions, his answers seem realistic. While reading about NCC parade in Vasu’s school, my school days passed through my eyes though I wasn’t excellent in sports as Vasu is! I remember my mom’s devotion and faith on Hinduism; when I read about devotion and faith of Radha Sen. Author also portrays few romantic scenes in chapter ‘Romance in the Air’ in which readers will find so many surprises which I won’t disclose. Live-in-relationship between Vasu and Vrishali is also full with romanticism. Author compares Vasu’s stuggle to save passangers from hijack with the battle of Karna in Mahabharata. Karna was defeated in that battle but what happens with Vasu? Does he win? Or he lost? I won’t open climax; you have to read a novel to know the result of Vasu’s battle.
Did you ever fly aeroplane? No? I flied! Yes! I have flied an aircraft! How? I have experienced that thrill of flying a plane sitting in cockpit, when I read the scene of plane hijack in last chapter of Karna’s Alter Ego. When Vasu took charge as a pilot in cockpit; I too enjoyed that thrilling experience of flying a plane. Though author Surendra Nath ji acknowledged thank of Captain Zaheed Parwez sir (not a character, but real one), I too would like to thank him individually because of whom author and we readers could virtually experience of hijack.
- “Success is ultimately yours if you try just one more time.”
- “All books are boring until they become interesting.”
- “They say dreams seen early in the morning come true.”
- “We must look beyond our tiny world, and we will be able to ignore our little worries.”
- “Grow, not merely physically, but also in your mindset, and prepare for greater challenges that lie ahead.”
- “Use setbacks as platforms to launch yourself to great success.”
- “Don’t mull over the past. Get on with your future. Make your school, your family, particularly your mother proud of you. I have often seen brilliant boys fall in grades as soon as they enter college merely due to their frivolous attitude. Don’t let that attitude take control of you.”
- “I have got only one life to live and one death to die; there better be a good cause to live and a good cause to die.”
- “They say everything is fair in love and war, I would go a step further, to say, Nothing is unfair in love and war.”
- INSTRUCTIVE PLOT:
I think author Surendra Nath would collect information or he would have gained knowledge or researched about so many aspects which are used in the novel. He tells detail history of Ekalgiri’s name. One should refer the novel to get an idea about medieval period (i.e. 15th -16th century). Information about discovery of Tribal Troves/gold utensils is flawless. Author's research about kidney transplantation process and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) can be seen in the scene. He tries to co-relate the story with touch of real incidents happened in past like The Day of Presidents (13th November 2004). He gives detail information about adoption process. One should read the book to know language used inside cockpit. Author might have researched a lot about aviation and pilot’s work, functioning of aeroplanes and aviation.
- “It said that according to the Indian Act of Treasure Trove 1878, if there were no claimants, the treasure would belong to the state, but the finder would be paid the current market value of the treasure.”
- “A donor should not be above 60 years of age.” (for kidney transplantation)
- “As per strict Hindu principles, the eldest son, whose father was alive, should not perform the last rites of any person. The funeral rites one must accord to one’s father first and then to any other person.”
- “The success rate for IVF is at best 35 per cent, by success we mean the successful fertilization of the egg outside the woman’s body. After the fertilized ovum is put back into the uterus, there is still no assurance of its growth into a viable embryo.”
- “Landing is the most difficult manoeuvre for any aviator, but he most satisfying one too.”
- MYTHOLOGICAL, PHILOSOPHICAL and SPIRITUAL PLOT:
Author comments on fate and dream in discussion between Karna and protagonist Vasu… “To understand the nuances of fate, it is very difficult, especially when in worldly affairs one is so engrossed. But when you look back, you realise it was only working matters in your favour.”
We get to know about Eklavya’s story from Karna. Author comments about punishment for committed or not committed sins in previous birth from two different angles in debate between Karna and Vasu by mythological and philosophical point of view… “I think, putting the blame for our sufferings on some unknown sin in the past is only a way of consoling ourselves, when fate deals us an unfair blow.” “When you say ‘he might have committed (sinful actions)’, does it not also imply that he might not have committed.” “How can one be punished without being told what exactly is his sin?”
Author satires on legal system of punishment through the mouth of Karna quoting “If someone kills a single man or ten, he gets the same punishment in your legal system.” Author describes the philosophy of Karma and Moksha (Fate and Salvation).
- “Mortals may only guess or estimate their future prospects, but accurate prediction is not meant for the human domain. Accept your prospects with equanimity, and that’s all you need to do. Be not too happy nor be too unhappy at what you receive.”
- Karna speak his first words of appreciation, “Do you know, twice did Yudhisthira play the game of dice? The first time, everything he lost including Draupadi, but everything he was given back. Everything he had lost in that game was returned to him!”
- Karna advices: “What you believe you rightfully deserve may not be meant for you at all.”
- “Confuse not between untruths and lies. A lie is a falsehood intentionally done, but an untruth is not a lie; it is merely uttered by someone who is, of the truth, unaware. Every lie is an untruth, but not every untruth a lie.”
- “If you condone a child’s lie, it is encouraged to tell more lies until he grows up to be a big liar.”
- “Man still needs to show faith in God’s creation and do good in all he does. If he does good, good will result, and if he does bad, bad will result. And so the circle of karma (fate) goes on.”
- “As a man, casting off robes that are worn out, putteth on others that are new, so the embodied soul, casting off bodies that are worn out,entereth other bodies that are new.” –Shree Krishna says in Mahabharata (Bhagwad Geeta)
- “Man is never the agent of his acts, right or wrong. Indeed, like a wooden machine, man is not an agent, in all he does. In this respect, three opinions are entertained: some say that everything is ordained by God; some say that our acts are the result of free-will; and others say that our acts are the result of those of our past lives.” –Mahabharata
- SOCIAL PLOT:
Author comments on several social issues like mid-day meal, teachers’ absence in schools. He describes how few rich people use poor as an object to fulfill their lust. Why poor boys like Vasu join NCC? Author narrates a fact about gambling, connection between master and Jambura, dealer and helper and their trick. He alerts about result of covetousness. Author warns gamblers that realization of mistake couldn’t correct. While reading this scene, I remembered my worse experience in gambling. Yes! I am not a gambler but I too have lost Rs. 500/- in a bet sometime in December 2013. I am not covetous but I had lost Rs.500/- within less than a minute. At that time no one asked me to promise as Karna asks Vasu, “promise me this day that never in your life you shall ever gamble.” But I promised myself as Vasu promises to his Mahapurush Karna, “Never, Mahapurush, never in my life I shall gamble again!” Author also remarks on fact about illegal gambling in train. I think this picture should come to an end. Author shares his worry about small smarts like painters’ unemployment. He satires on a relationship built on internet.
Author brings readers’ attention at women’s physical assault by their drunk husbands. He also gives an example of Vrishali’s molestation. He does not only criticize on women’s assaults but slap on educated people who boycott or ignore victims indirectly, He set an example that how people should react with victims through Vasu’s decent and helpful behavior with Vrishali. Author satires on female feticides and gives a massage to save girl child in scene of adoption quoting “We hear so many parents committing female foeticide, and worse, female infanticide. When we have a choice, why don’t we give the girl child a chance? Let us choose sensibly rather than go the way thousands of people in this country are going today. Let’s not insist on a male progeny, let’s not reject a girl child.” He comments about financial problems of middle class family.
People don’t even help accident victims, they ignore beggars as they borne poor but author shows humanity through the character of Vasu when he offers funeral rites on dead body of a beggar Aditya. Author satires on superstitious attempts to fulfill wishes. He comments on dark against fair complexion through philosophical point of view and peoples’ tendency about apartheid in quotes “Think of Gandhi who fought against discrimination based on colour. Elsewhere, in the world Mandela eradicated a curse of Apartheid. And here we are stuck on skin colour. Isn’t a shame, ‘reserving’ a fair looking child?” and “If you truly wish to adopt a child, choose not like you are picking some commodity. If it had been naturally born to you, and come with some physical deformity, would you then seek and alternate child?” He also appeals to stop apartheid and to stop discrimination on basis of complexion.
- “As in most orthodox families, the girl’s opinion was considered irrelevant. The girl was only supposed to blush to imply her consent for getting married. An arranged marriage is all right but not a forced one.”
- “It is customary for the boy’s parents to call on the girl’s house with a proposal of marriage.”
Author uses an asterisk (*) to define few incidents in brief. Brief Narration of Related Incidents is enclosed at the of novel. I would like to mention those 29 incidents below:
- Disrobing of Draupadi
- The Game of Dice (Round2)
- The Swayamwar of Draupadi
- The Story of Ekalava
- George Mallory’s Attempt to Conquer Mt. Everest
- The Curse by Parashurama
- Karna Donates his Kavach (armour) and Kundal (earrings)
- The Story of Jarasandha
- The Birth and Adoption of Karna
- Jambul Akhyan
- Shree Krishna’s Offer to Karna
- The Royal Tournament (Astra Darshan= Show of Weaponry)
- Karna Uses up the Vasava Shakti
- Death of Karna
- The Day of the Presidents (November, the third 2004)
- Expedition to the South Pole
- The Adoption of Mose
- Chakravyuha (labyrinth)
- Bhishma’s Vow
- The Story of Mahabali (Vamana Avatar)
- The Story of Abhimanyu
- Death of Drona
- Death of Bhishma (Story of Shikhandi)
- The Story of Jayadrath
- The Story of Snake-mouthed Arrow
- The Virata War
- The House of Lac (sealing wax) or Jatugriha
Though the book is highly appreciable, let me inform you about few drawbacks of Karna’s Alter Ego:
- Fainted Printing: Few words printed in the book are fainted.
- Over-use of Italic Fonts: Though I appreciated italic fots’s use in a book as positive aspect, I must share that I feel over use of italic fonts inappropriate instead of single/double inverted commas to describe a quotations.
- Hindi words are not explained in English.
- Stretched Story: I feel the story stretched in chapter seven and eleven, otherwise book might be short.
- Print Mistakes: Editor and publisher would check the draft so many times before print, but still I noticed three print mistakes in Karna’s Alter Ego. Two mistakes among them are about mis-spelling the name of Vrishali. Vrishali is mis-spelled as ‘Varishali’ and ‘Vaishali’ on page no. 122 and 177 respectively. Third print mistake is about Ghatotkacha’s name which is mis-spelled as Ghatokacha on page no. 148.
- Use of Real names: Author has used real names of presidents without their permission.
- Author’s brief introduction is missing in the book.
[Image: Rajesh D. Hajare reading Karna’s Alter Ego.]
I read the book and liked very much. A famous author Ruskin Bond asks a question about selective theme of Karna’s Alter Ego. Yes! He is right. Karna’s Alter Ego does not fit in any one theme but all themes are fit perfectly for the book. Surendra Nath ji covers several themes like mythology, social, quotidian, spiritual, philosophical and thriller in a single novel Karna’s Alter Ego.
I would highly recommend all to must read this page-turner. And if you are seeking to enjoy, learn, grow your knowledge about Hindu mythology and experience a thrill in a single novel; you must read Karna’s Alter Ego. These kind of books do not publish every year, so you won’t afford to miss reading this novel. I would highly recommend Karna’s Alter Ego to all of you interested to read and enjoy different themes in single book.
According to my detail analysis, Karna’s Alter Ego deserves 4.35 but I would give extra 0.15 to the author Surendra Nath Mohanty ji for covering various themes in a single novel. So I will give 4½ out of 5 which is EXCELLENT!
[©Video: Trailer of Karna’s Alter Ego on YouTube.]
KARNA’S ALTER EGO in brief
- Title: KARNA’S ALTER EGO
- Author: SURENDRA NATH MOHANTY
- Publisher: Dream House Publication
- First Published by Dream House Publication, in 2015
- Copyright: ©Surendra Nath 2015
- Format: Paperback
- Printed and Bound in India
- ISBN Number: 978-93-84180-11-9
- Price: Rs. 175/- (incl. all taxes)
- Pages: 249 (excluding first 12, last 3 and cover)
- Forewords by: Ruskin Bond and Manoj Das
- Preface by: Surendra Nath
- Cover Designer: Abinash Panda
- Genre: FICTION
- My Rating:
- Reviewer: RAJESH D. HAJARE (RDH)
- This is my personal opinion about Karna’s Alter Ego and your feedback may be vary.
- The Book Karna’s Alter Ego was sent to me by it’s author Surendra Nath Mohanty ji for an honest review.
- (Reviewer of this book is the Gondia district’s President at Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Parishad, Pune)
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