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KRISHNA... KRISHNA... : Indira Parthasarathy; Drawings by K.M. Adimoolam, Mithra Arts Creations, 375/8-10, Arcot Road, Chennai-600024. Rs. 95.

IT IS a healthy trend that Tamil fiction is once again getting back to analysing ancient Indian literature in a positive manner. M.V. Venkatram gave us Nitya Kanni based on the Rishi Kalava-Madhavi episode in the Mahabharata. More recently Rajam Krishnan probed the sociological cauldron in the times of Satyakama-Jaabala linking it to women's condition today. In this work Indira Parthasarathy has now given a new reading of the tantalising myth of the Pandava ambassador.

But why Krishna? Haven't we had a little too much of this Yadava boy of the Indic world? Oh no, says Krishna Chaitanya in his challenging book, The Betrayal of Krishna (1991): "One will have to discover one's own Krishna and in the process seriously question the humanistic value of some hoary traditions."

Indira Parthasarathy does that and experiments with racial memory to tack the past with the present. Subsuming the Yadava (Abhir, Aayar) hero, the "slayer of Kesi" (Atharva Veda), the Supreme's avatar in the Bhagavata tradition and the Kamasutraic presence in the court poets, he writes with an engaging style to show that Krishna was always on the side of the downtrodden womanhood of His days.

As the novelist glibly weaves his net with the crowded dramatis personae, we are made aware of the touch of tears in human relationships. For instance, the assassination of Dhrishtadhyumna and the Upa-pandavas. The narrative is peppered with English words which have been printed in English. Very apt inputs, though purists may decry them: kill-joy, visa, yours truly and the rest.

But the style is sure to be a pleasure for the cerebral audience to find in ancient attitudes germs of globalisation, ultimate weaponry, wholesale (matrimonial) trade and existentialist dilemma. The brief note on the Gita capsule is delightful.

And Radha? She too is here and the author's innovation is Krishna returning to Brindavan after the destruction of the Yadava race. He learns of the existence of Grandma Radha. Realising the futility of His Gita when it has to be applied in His own case, Krishna just walks away, hugging to Himself the lovely damsel of His younger days and hands Himself over to Jara's arrow.

Call it novel, essay, critique or purposive doodling while on holiday surrounded by tomes of ancient literature; call it what you will. It is a grand illusion which includes Krishna's forgetting His art in the hucksterings of political gamesmanship. A good read, as they say. And the Flute-player of Brindavan actually comes through unscathed, for the music continues to echo: now as Krishna... Krishna ...


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