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Book Review: The Forest Of Stories by Ashok K. Banker

Hello everyone,
My only association with
mythological epics was the version that were telecasted on the television when
I was a kid and that is how I first came across Mahabharata all thanks to the Mr
B.R Chopra. When I first came across The Forest of Stories by Ashok K. Banker I
was pretty skeptical as the book clearly mentioned that he was merely retelling
the great epic of Mahabharata and retelling a story that has being narrated time
and again by elders in the family in almost every Indian household is never an
easy job as most readers would lose interest after a while. But this doubt in
my mind was dispelled as soon as I did a background check on the author to find
that he has done it before and has been very successfully at the same with his
Ramayana Series and Krishna Coriolis series ( which I now plan to read 🙂  )
The forest of stories is the
first book in what Ashok Banker calls the MBA series. When I picked up the book
I was actually expecting that I would be reading about the war, the Kauravas,
the Pandavas and usual names that come to your mind when you think about
Mahabharata, instead the book turned out to be a collection of seven interesting stories that do not involve any of the
main characters of the great battle but it is important in the sense that it
introduces us to the very circumstances, situations and the history of the characters
associated with this Great War. 
The thing that I admire most
about the book is how the author has been able to maintain the poetic and prose
like narration that you see in Sanskrit in which this epic was originally written.
Another thing that came across from the writing style of the author was that he
identifies the fact that in order to maintain the interest of the reader while
taking care not to compromise the sanctity of the epic itself requires the
narration to have flow yet be have a sense of brevity to it. It is difficult
balance to maintain, but as you turn the pages of this book, you realize that
the author has actually mastered doing the same. It is a complete pleasure to
take the journey to the mythological era of this great story accompanied by the
beautiful words used by the author.
Out of the seven stories
mentioned in the book, I did have a fair idea about the story behind Amrit-Manthan and Dushayant – Shakuntala, but the version of these stories available
in the book are much more descriptive and detailed. The only problem is that there
are parts where the lineage of characters has been described and the sheer number
of names tends to confuse you at times.
After reading this book I am
definitely looking forward to read the other books in Ashok Banker’s MBA series
along with other series that he has written as I am in complete awe of the
author’s writing style.  I would definitely recommend you to do the saw in case you decide to revisit these great epics.
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