Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer

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Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of the Rig Veda
But largely forgotten to the memory of India
Is the Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala

Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement. But peril pursues her everywhere.

Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?

Read an Excerpt

“I am the Queen! This will be my throne!” The seven-year-old chirped leaping from the middle of the porch towards the broken mortar which served as a mock throne. “You will be my guard!”

“Guard?” the man pondered scratching his unkempt beard.

“No.” He shook his head and smiled seeing her indignant eyes. “I will be the Queen’s elephant.” He beamed.

Sukratu stepped out of the house to see his daughter in action, perching herself on the tramp Loha’s back, pretending in all earnestness that he was her elephant. He smiled and was about to set out for his duty as the night guard of the King. A sudden lightning appeared in the eastern skies. Sukratu had barely walked a few paces when a deafening thunder made him instinctively turn towards home. He heaved a sigh, finding Loha shielding the girl as if he would, his own child.

“Father, don’t go.” The girl pleaded.

Sukratu smiled and shifted his gaze towards the sky. He saw dark clouds loom over the city. The monsoon winds had started to make their presence felt. He had to reach the palace soon. “Isn’t my little Queen brave?” He called out.

The girl nodded. He saw the fear fade. From her eyes. From her heart. She knew she was the queen! Pride filled his heart. His mind ached to stay home but duty beckoned. Tearing his gaze away from the one he treasured the most in his life, braving the drizzle that would soon turn into a storm, he unwillingly walked towards the King’s residence. Sukratu’s house was in the third ring of the concentric structure of Vrishabhavati. In the centre, was the structure, that served as the residence of the king and as the centre of all trade activity of the city. Here no wealth or goods could change hands without the king’s knowledge and approval. The residences of the noblemen formed the two rings around it. The guards and soldiers forming the outermost circle with the citizens living around them.

As per the protocol, Sukratu approached General Ugra’s residence quite ahead of his reporting time— an hour before the moonrise. He walked into the empty courtyard. But the rain made it impossible for him to stand there any longer. He knocked at the giant wooden door fervently. The doors creaked as a strange woman clad in a dark indigo garment opened them and glared at him with a frown on her forehead.

General Ugra, Sukratu knew was never faithful to one woman. His superior’s romantic exploits were not his concern either. But something about the woman at the door disconcerted him. “Please let General Ugra know that…”

“He has already left for the palace!” The woman frowned before attempting to shut the door.

“What? How ca…” Sukratu’s words hung in air as the door slammed on his face and the woman disappeared from his line of vision all of a sudden. Something did not feel right. He knocked at the door again. Firmly this time, as though seeking answers. Any change in the reporting time would have been announced the day before and he remembered that nothing of the sort had happened. His knocks went unanswered. Frowning and muttering under his breath, Sukratu hurried towards an empty cowshed three houses away from Ugra’s place hoping to catch his companions who he knew would be equally surprised.

The first to arrive was Khela, the eighteen-year-old guard, holding a metal shield above his head. The newest addition to the King’s guard, Khela was related to General Ugra and Sukratu felt that his position in the King’s guard was largely a result of undue favours that Ugra showered upon an otherwise impudent boy.

“Sukratu! By the great Varuna, I should have come to you earlier!” Khela hurried towards him. Pausing for breath, he added. “Our platoon has been given a relief tonight! It was a sudden decision and I personally informed all the others.”

“Relief for tonight? That happens only when…”

“Our guarding hours change from night to day!” Khela completed in a hurry. “Now, come with me.” He turned towards the western direction and the javelin he held started to sway dangerously and came close to grazing Sukratu’s arm.

The older guard’s instincts made him dodge the cut. “Where?” Sukratu hissed, visibly annoyed, first with the fact that he was kept in dark about the change in guarding hours and then about Khela’s irreverent behaviour. “And watch who your weapon hurts, boy.”

Khela shrugged and changed the position of his weapon. “We are now going to the place.” He winked, stretching his hand in the direction. “Follow me, this is the only night we get to have some fun.”

Sukratu did not move. The place he knew implied the tavern where wine was served. “We cannot drink tonight, Khela. When do we have to report tomorrow? By sunrise?”

“You ask too many questions. The rest of us are there too!”

“That does not answer my question.”

“Well, I don’t know, and I don’t care to. The palace is paying for the wine. Are you coming or not?”

The last sentence sounded more like a threat than an invite. Sukratu had all the mind to give the youth a piece of his mind and storm back home. His daughter would be overjoyed to see him before she went to sleep. It gnawed at Sukratu’s heart every day to leave her under the care of Loha— the tramp who had begged him for shelter about six months ago and then became a part of his life. The girl liked him instantly and had begged Sukratu to let Loha live with them and he, despite his misgivings about the tramp’s origins and his unkempt appearance, could not refuse his only daughter. Over time, Sukratu felt grateful for Loha’s company. Now his daughter did not have to be all by herself every night. The guard’s home would have been unguarded if not for that stranger. Sukratu brushed aside these thoughts and had almost decided to go home when the thought of meeting other senior guards and clarifying the confusion struck him. He followed Khela’s lead, making no attempt to hide his displeasure.

When they reached the tavern, Sukratu to his dismay, found many of his brothers in arms deeply drunk. “When did they reach here and when did they…”

“Quite some time before. I just forgot to tell you in advance!”

Sukratu’s eyes scrutinized the men and women of the tavern who were serving wine to the guards. There were no other citizens or travellers in the tavern.

“Just for us, the whole night!” Khela said as if reading his thoughts, bringing him an earthen goblet.

The older guard accepted the goblet taking his first sip with a sense of foreboding.

“Where were you all the time, old friend?” The voice belonged to Tunga one of the senior guards in the platoon.

The grin on his friend’s face brought a smile to Sukratu’s lips. “Tunga, what is this about the sudden change in our guarding hours?”

“The King… that imbecile, has finally remembered that we are human too!” Tunga guffawed, emptying his goblet, waving vigorously at a woman of the tavern who obliged with a seductive wink.

She approached them, skilfully distributing her attention between both the men, winking at Tunga and pouting her lips at Sukratu. Her brows rose at Sukratu’s filled cup. “Don’t keep the Sura nor this Sundari waiting, my love…” Serving Tunga his wine, she placed her fingers upon Sukratu’s shoulders, digging her nails into his skin for a moment locking her gaze with his and turned around swiftly, letting her light upper garment rest on his face for a fleeting moment.

It was a wilful invitation and Sukratu knew it. His attention though was caught by the colour of the garment. The Indigo hued garment! All the women of the tavern wore clothes of the same colour. So did the woman he saw in General Ugra’s house! Was Ugra at home while the woman lied that he was at the palace? If the General and the whole platoon of the night guard were lying down drunk, who was minding the security of the King? Sukratu looked at the rest of the guards. No one seemed sober enough to talk. The only sober man Khela had disappeared!

“By the great Varuna!” Sukratu exclaimed aloud and rushed out, pushing the woman who tried to stop him away.

He raced to the King’s residence, as fast as his legs could carry him. The huge wooden gates of the structure were closed and secured from inside. The rain lashed drowning his cries. Misgivings regarding the King’s welfare made him shudder. He had to meet General Ugra. Something told him that the General had his own reasons to send the whole platoon of guards to enjoy a drunk night. He was a guard who had sworn to protect the King with his life. The general owed him an answer. Sukratu rushed to General Ugra’s house determined to confront him.

That, Sukratu realized was the biggest mistake of his life.

At the gates of the general’s residence he saw a familiar figure hurrying out of his house, a heavy bundle on his shoulders. “General Ugra!” he called out, feeling relieved.

The figure started, and the bundle fell to the ground. Sukratu came to a sudden halt as he realized it wasn’t a bundle after all, but a blood-drenched corpse. A stroke of lightning from the sky revealed the face and the very familiar greying curls. Sukratu froze for a long moment before he could speak.

 “K… King…”
Something hit him on the head even before he could utter the name. Sukratu staggered, reeling at the impact, clutching at his long sword in a vain attempt to defend the next move.

“Finish him!” The General shout behind him.

Before he turned around, Sukratu felt the cold metal tear into his back. Lightning struck revealing the contours of the person. Khela! The javelin stabbed him again. Thunder drowned his screams. Falling to the ground with the weapon still stuck to his back, Sukratu lifted his sword and managed to slash Khela’s palm though the latter, unlike him was vigilant and alert. Crawling away from the menacing duo, knowing very well that he could not last more than a few moments, Sukratu’s thoughts, went to his innocent daughter. She would now languish as an orphan remaining in dark about the monsters who killed her father. Or would they kill her too?

Sukratu would never know.
About the Author:
Saiswaroopa is an IITian and a former investment analyst turned author. Her keen interest in ancient Indian history, literature and culture made her take to writing. Her debut novel Abhaya, set in the times of Mahabharata was published in 2015. Avishi, her second novel set in Vedic India explores the legend of India’s first mentioned female warrior queen Vishpala.

She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is also trained in Carnatic Classical music and has won a state level gold medal from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.

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“The Dark Road” by Mayuresh Didolkar- A Micro-review

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“The Dark Road”, by Mayuresh Didolkar is a captivating murder mystery. It is a well-constructed plot with balanced humor.  The story of the victim Sanjyot is heart-breaking. She is the embodiment of the struggles of a teenager. The protagonist Prasanna is a fascinating character. I would love to read more mysteries solved by her.

The unweaving of  this murder mystery will keep you glued. I think this story is definitely a movie material.

I hope Mayuresh will come up with many more thriller stories like this.

You can buy the book Here.

Ganesha Sambhrama: My First Solo Art Exhibition

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Ganesha Sambhrama- my first solo exhibition was held from 14 May 2017 to 16 May 2017 at Bharani Art Gallery, Mysuru. Though, the exhibition started on 14th, for us (me and my husband Nithin), it started long before. Working on paintings (which was solely my job), getting them framed, sending invitations, working for promotion, there was a lot of preparations to be done. Also, I had to prepare myself to deliver a short speech during the inauguration and later explain each of the paintings, the story, the symbolism and how it was made to the visitors. Since, it was the first time I was to give a speech, I was quite nervous!

The event was inaugurated by Dr. Sarvamangala Shankar, the Vice Chancellor of Karnataka State Dr. Gangubai Hangal Music & Performing Arts University. Rajashekhar Kadamba, senior theater artist and Amshi Prasanakumara, the Assistant editor of Kannada Prabha were the chief guests of the event.

Dr. Sarvamangala Shankar inaugurating the exhibition

They were very appreciative of the paintings that I had displayed especially the painting of thirty two forms of Ganapati based on their dhyana mantras from “Uttara Kaamikagama” and “Mudagal Purana”.

Painting of Thirty Two Forms of Ganapati based on their dhyana Mantras

Other works that caught their attention included “Ganapati Homam”, “Ganesha Bhakti”, “Ganesha worshipping Shiva-Shakti”, “Ganeshini” and “Kangitan”.

When time came for my speech, for a moment, I got nervous and as a result, I forgot the speech I had prepared and instead gave completely new speech. But, to my surprise it was not bad at all.

I had this fear that after the main event, nobody would visit the exhibition. But, people kept visiting throughout the day. I think more than a hundred and fifty people visited in total. Considering that this was my first solo exhibition, getting this many visitors itself is an achievement. Another satisfying thing for me was the media coverage that the event received.

Here are some of the images of media reports about the event:

To any artist, selling a painting in his/her first exhibition is a big achievement. And with the grace of Ganapati I sold three works in which two were digital prints and one was original painting.

Here are the works that I sold-

Torana Ganapati

Abstract Ganapati

Ganesha Bhakti

I think what I loved the most about the entire exhibition was how some people came from distant places reading about my exhibition in newspaper or watching in local news channels. Their appreciation was my biggest achievement. Here, I am sharing some of the feedbacks that I received-

The most beautiful thing that happened in the course of the exhibition was also the most unexpected. Someone told a Swami ji from Vrindavana about one of my digital paintings wherein I have painted a story, an interaction between baby Ganesha and baby Krishna and the Swamiji liked it so much that he instantly composed a song on it.

Here is the digital painting and the song composed by Vrindavan Swamiji-

छोटे से नन्हे से कृष्ण गए, गम्पू के पास

माखन दिखाया तो गम्पू बोले, इसमें क्या खास

खाया नहीं तो तुम क्या जानो, माखन का स्वाद

रोने लगे जब झूठे झूठे (कृष्ण), हुआ विश्वास (गणेश को)

ले लूँगा माखन रोना नहीं, गम्पू फँसे तब

लिया जो माखन कृष्ण कहे, लड्डू चाहूँ अब

लड्डू छुपाया गम्पू ने तो, कृष्ण हँसे तब

जाता हूँ फिर मैं दुःखी होके, खाओ कैसे अब

गम्पू फँसे कुछ कर ना सके, ले लो लड्डू तब

ऐसी है लीला मनमोहन की, हँस के कहें सब

I feel so honored, I cannot describe it in words.

Here are some of the photos of the exhibition-

With Dr. Sarvamangala Shankar

Delivering my inauguration speech

With Sri Kaverappa Nellamakkada, senior artist and the owner of Bharani Art Gallery and my husband Nithin Sridhar

The positivity and the happiness, that I achieved during this exhibition is going to be with me for a long time. This experience has given me the confidence to go for another exhibition. If everything works out well, I would be holding another exhibition during the Navaratri. And I sincerely hope that those who could not come to this exhibition will come to my next exhibition.

To see all the paintings that I had displayed in the exhibition, please go through-

Ganesha Sambhrama- My First Solo Art Exhibition

P.S.- I will soon upload a video that I had recorded to give a virtual tour of my Exhibition to all my friends who could not make it to the event.

Short Story “Two Kinds”- Review

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Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” is a story of the relationship of Jing-mei and her mother. I think many people can relate to the story because the conflict between the aspirations of parents and children is not so unusual.

The story takes you from where a daughter struggles for some recognition from her mother to where she stops caring and starts struggling for her own identity. The story also shows how a mother does everything to provide some chance to her children to become something in their life. But the generation gap results in conflicts. The children become too rigid or blunt and even the inspiring words of parents seem useless to children.

The story covers the struggle as well as the rigidness of Jing-mei. The protagonist, who is an adult Jing-mei, looking back in her life, describes her own attitude and failures and how she did things intentionally to hurt her mother. As a narrator the protagonist does not try to hide the wrong doings she committed in her childhood. In fact, she narrates it so beautifully that one understands those wrong-doing as nothing but just a phase of life. Hence, Jing-mei’s not learning piano properly or her poor performance at a talent show or her mentioning the dead children of her mother intentionally, does not make a reader  hate her.

Now when the protagonist talks about her thirtieth birthday, it becomes clear that she feels sad for letting her mother down again and again while growing up. She feels frightened with the thought that her mother has completely given up on her. But when her mother offers her the same piano, next to which they had argued in which she had used her mother’s dead children to win the argument, she takes it as a sign of forgiveness.

The story’s title becomes clear when, after the death of her mother, the protagonist while playing the same piano notices something that she had never noticed before. She realizes that, “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented” are two halves of the same song. May be the incident represents that even after the generation gap her mother and she were not so different. After all, her mother desired only success and happiness for Jing-mei.

Book Review: Abhaya by Saiswaroopa Iyer

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abhaya

If you are fan of Pauranic fiction, then I would recommend you Saiswaroopa’s “Abhaya”, based on the lore of “Narakasura”. The story has been written so profoundly that it hooks the reader instantly. The characters, their thought process, their weakness, their strength, everything has been portrayed excellently.

I personally loved the way the author has portrayed the character of Krishna and the relationship of Abhaya and Krishna. Abhaya’s straightforward character and her fight for the right makes the reader to immediately fall in love with her.

Short Story “A Worn Path”- Review

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“A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty is such a brilliant story to read. It gives warmth to the heart of the reader. Though, the protagonist Phoenix is old and poor, the way she speaks to the obstacles in her way clearly shows that she takes these challenges as an adventure. Writing a story of an old woman, who has none but a sick grandson and is forced to walk for so long for medicines, in such humorous way has really astonished me. I smiled reading her commentary over the bushes, and thrones, and scarecrow. I was surprised to see that she feared none even when the hunter pointed his gun towards her. And I was impressed with the way she stole that nickel that fell from the hunter’s pocket and later frankly asked for a nickel from the attendant to buy a paper windmill for his grandson. What a way to treat life! This story is like saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

How I see myself

If you have seen the American TV series “Friends”, then you surely know who Chandler Bing is. Thinking about his role in the series, I feel like I am his lady version. It’s not like I am a daughter of some erotic novelist mother and a gay, cross-dressing Las Vegas star father. No, my parents are perfectly simple people. But here I am talking about Chandler’s character. The way he is awkward among people. See the video and you will see how he plans to do something and ends up doing something really weird.

 

Yes, that’s me. I am always awkward among people. I don’t know what to say or what to do when I meet people. I think of a lot many things that I can talk about, but those thoughts never turn into actual words and I end up portraying myself as a scary kid or a dumb girl. Well, it’s really beneficial sometimes, but at other times after meeting someone, for a few days I keep thinking “why the f*** did I say that” or “oh how cool it would have been if I had said this”.
It’s almost never happened that I was comfortable meeting any new person. But as I said almost, the only person that I was never awkward with, even in my first meeting, is the one I am married to. For some reason I was so comfortable that I did not feel like I was meeting him for the first time. I was confident, happy, and myself.

Anyways, that’s me and to those who have met me and think that I am weird, I can only say- No, you have no idea how weird I can actually be. You just have seen the trailer, and I pray to God that the actual movie never gets released.

Chitra Santhe Mysuru, December 2015

I participated at the Chitra Santhe (Art Fair) 2015 organized in Mysuru. It was a great experience for me. Here are some of the photos of my stall at the art fair and snapshots of the news paper coverage of the event that mentions my work.

My works exhibited at Chitra Santhe held on 13th December, 2015

 Deccan Herald’s report on Chitra Santhe 2015 (14th Dec issue) mentions about my work
Local Kannada newpaper- Mysuru Mitra’s report on Chitra Santhe 2015 (14th Dec issue) mentions about my work. But they have got my name wrong 

An online News Portal NewsGram​ report on Chitra Santhe 2015 (14th Dec issue) mentions about my work. But they have got my name wrong 

Times of India report on Chitra Santhe 2015 (14th Dec issue) has quoted me.

Surya

Surya- Pencil Sketch (Digitally modified)

Surya-The lord of Planets

The significance of Surya in Indian thought is not only as one of the lord of Grahas, but as identical with the supreme godhead Vishnu.

He sits on a lotus, carrying in his two hands red lotuses, his complexion is deep red, his chariot has seven horses, yoked by seven ropes.

The seven horses of Sun are the seven Vedic metres- Gayatri, Brhati, Ushnik, Jagati, Trishtup, Anushtubh and Pankti.

Visit Pratyasha Nithin’s Art Gallery

Ganapati riding Simha

Ganapati on Simha
Digital Painting
All images © 2010-2015 Pratyasha Nithin. All rights reserved
This is a digital painting of Ganapati riding a lion. Here his one hand is in the gesture of protection and the other one in the gesture of boon.
To buy prints in US- Pratyasha Nithin’s Art Gallery
To buy prints in India-Sen6 Gallery
To buy prints in Europe- ArtFlakes.com