Kavita Kane is a senior journalist and the author of Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen, which tells the story of Karna through the eyes of his wife Uruvi. A revisionist version of the Mahabharata told from a different perspective indeed!
1. Many recent novels fall into the category of ‘history/mythology treated with a contemporary sensibility’. How is Karna’s Wife unique?
It is fiction of course and my protagonist Uruvi is a fictitious character. But that it is about one of the most enigmatic characters in Indian mythology is what makes it unique. Karna though revered and unanimously popular, remains quite a mystery – his private life is entirely not known. He is seen either as Arjuna’s rival or Duryodhan’s friend , the tragic hero who is doomed and damned. I was often confronted with the exclamatory questions like – ‘O Karna had a wife??’ In popular imagination he seems to be a bachelor – and that is just one of the myth that I have cleared in this novel.
2. As a Punekari writer, what do you hope for, from the Pune International Literary Festival?
That the local citizens get to meet authors and the whole experience of reading gets more interactive. Most readers are eager to meet authors – they want to discuss their work, their books, their characters they have created and hearing it from the author’s mouth can be truly inspiring. I remember I was overawed by Nissim Ezekiel when I first met him. He was such a gentleman. And I fell in love with poetry all over again!
3. Have you read The Palace of Illusions (which is about the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective)? Did it inspire you to pick up your angle? Does the Uruvi of your novel, wife of the unacknowledged son of Kunti, provide a counterpoint to Draupadi, wife of the five ‘official’ Pandava brothers?
Yes I have read it – as I have read other fiction on the Mahabharata. No book, fortunately, inspired to write my own. What really triggered it off was Karna’s dubious role in the vastraharan episode. And how his wife would have reacted to her husband’s moral downfall. That’s what really prompted me to write the novel. Uruvi is not just a counterpoint to Draupadi, She is also a contrast to Vrushali, Karna’s first wife. Or even Bhanumati, Duryodhan’s wife. With Draupadi, there is an ironical parallel, where both eventually have to face a common, terrible reality.
4. Uruvi has until now been in the background; few ever thought of Karna’s wife, let alone knew her name. What research did you undertake to find out more about her? What sources did you use?
As I said earlier, Uruvi is fictitious. I had to create her to validate my thoughts and arguments. But, unlike his popular image of a bachelor, Karna was married and the father of eight sons. One of his wife was Vrushali, who is an important character in my book. There are said to be others – Supriya, Prabhavati,Ponnaruvi. Very little is known about any of them in the Mahabharata texts and after all the reading and re-reading, I realised that Karna’s personal life and his family remain one of the most neglected elements in the epic drama.
5. Pune is a city with a rich literary culture. How has this city influenced your writing?
Pune comes from the word Punyanagari. And I seriously believe it is one – which has given me the best and makes me give my best.
6. Which is your favourite Pune bookstore? Do you prefer browsing in traditional stores, or quick-and-easy online shopping?
A. I like libraries more than bookstores – a place where I can browse through the most ancient books! There are many bookstores I frequent in the city – be it Manneys ( sadly shut down), Modern, International, Popular or Crossword. Any will do as long as I get the book I want to read. But online shopping is convenient if you have a certain book in mind. I was in this very impatient mood as I was not getting this particular book at the local bookstores. I ordered it on Flipkart at 5 in the evening and it was home-delivered the next morning while I was having my breakfast! That’s great, isn’t it?
7. Tell us something you want your readers to know: about yourself, your motivations, your work habits…. or anything else you’d like to share!
I guess – and hope – the readers would be more interested in my book! Am just an ordinary person leading an ordinary life …
8. Do you find social media a good way to meet and interact with fans? Or do you prefer blogging? (Do give us your blog address!)
A – I used to blog furiously a decade ago, when the wave was really new. My blog address must have long died and got unceremoniously buried by now – it was called the jokertalk.blogspot.com. And I do believe that the social media works fabulously if the writer really wants to interact with the readers. Or the vice-versa. Its reach is immense and I have been deluged with the most astute, incisive questions from all over the country – not just the metros but the smallest of towns like Chittaranjan and Sagar . Amazing. Simply amazing.
9. What is the best thing about being a published novelist? And the worst?
That the book is out – and through it, the others have got to read what I wished them to know! The worst probably would be the rising expectations of writing another novel. I just say – Write ho!
10. Who are your favourite Punekari authors?
I don’t believe in the term ‘favourite’ author/s – that would be insulting my selection of all the other books and authors I have read!
11. Which character from the Mahabharata would you most like to meet, and what would you ask him/her?
Of course, Karna! And would have done exactly what Uruvi did!
We would like to thank Ms. Kane for taking time out from her busy schedule for this interview with Indiabookstore. We wish her the best for her future endeavours. Read a review of her book at ThePunekar. You can also check out the Official Facebook Page of the book.