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Written by: Kirti Tarang

Rise of Kali

Rise of Kali by Anand Neelakantan

The cover of the book suggests that the writer has interpreted Ved Vyas’ ‘Mahabharat’ from Duryodhan’s point of view. However, once you flip through the pages you realize that in reality it is the author’s version of ‘Mahabharat’- his mythical imagination, in which Suyodhan is the hero.

It is important to accept this fact if you want to embrace the book. Otherwise, you’ll be walking on the path of disappointment. Thankfully, this realization came to me while reading the first part of ‘Ajaya’ series.

I strongly recommend going through part one before picking ‘Rise of Kali’, that’s where characters come to life & inciting incidences take place. Kali is just about the conflict & the resolution; which is penned in such a compelling narrative style that the book becomes a ‘must read’.


1. You don’t know this story

You may have read, watched or heard ‘Mahabharat’ but not ‘Rise of Kali’. Set on the stage of the mythological classic, Kali plays out as a fast paced thriller. It aims to create a prism through which we can see the present in the form of a diffracted light.

2. It stirs emotions

I was angry at the slanderous sketch of Pandavas. I remember, while reading the first part, I went on a broadcast spree to everyone around me, “Why to show someone as hero, one must present someone else as villain? Isn’t the fact that none is black or white, but painted in shades of grey- the most enchanting thing about Mahabharat?”

And yet, I cared for Suyodhan. I feared for him. I wanted to get inside the forests & guide Eklavya to the right path. Felt like shaking Dronacharya for being an ignorant fool despite all his knowledge. I fell in love with Karan, again.

I’ve always loved him. He has been my favorite character in the epic, since I first heard his story from my Grandfather. However, it’s for the first time that someone has invested so much in his tale. It strengthened my heart’s bond with my favorite underdog, ever. This reached to a point that I had to shut the book & keep it away. I picked up later, tried, but couldn’t read the face-off between Karan & Arjun. I just couldn’t bear to read him till death. “This is worst than reading Game of Thrones, at least there deaths are shockers. This spares me the agony of watching someone I love inching towards death & not being able to do anything.” I whined.

I can’t remember when was the last time, when I cared so much about a character. (Perhaps, Jon Snow)

3. It raises questions

Anand seems to be visiting the past to comment on the present, perhaps envisioning possibilities of a better future too. As the story unfolds, the book pokes the areas of our reasoning that we have carefully ignored.  It puts the reader in a ‘dharam sankat’, the heart wants to run through the thrilling narrative & find out ‘what happens next’, but the brain pauses to ponder over a philosophical question that the story has just raised. At times, I felt the juxtaposition of the stories of past with the events of present, a bit forced. For example, the use of Balram’s retirement as a metaphor for Gandhi’s Dandi March. But, a couple of slips here & there can be overlooked, since it’s this juxtaposition that makes this book so compelling.

4. It’s deliciously visual

The writer has done detailing with such a surgeon’s precision that I can see the characters moving around me. It’s like some sort of 4D experience. The narrative simply transports us to Dwapar Yug.

5. It inspires to read

This book may have certain flaws, but I’ll narrate you an incidence that redeems it all:

My younger brother visited me last month. He did the thing every brother does, snatch whatever the sister is holding dearly & run away. I was holding ‘Rise Of Kali’, so he snatched that.

You need to know this about my brother that he is a stereo typical jock, totally allergic to books. Our entire khandaan has tried & tried but could never inculcate the habit of recreational reading in him.

This time, just to irritate me he was fluttering the pages & he got hooked! This is alright, even Harry Potter & Chetan Bhagat has this affect. However, this was different. My brother came up to me  with such questions that it amazed me. It was as if something has unfolded a hidden recess of his soul that housed a desire for knowledge.

When he couldn’t find the answers from me, he surfed through my library & picked Gita. He wasn’t simply reading it, he was analyzing it, questioning it. We would spend hours in intellectual exercises & while leaving my city, he took away a couple of my books with him (I hate him for this).

That’s what makes this book great for me, it made a non-reader into a book-junkie.