He is a veritable one-man industry. Ashok K Banker, generously considered one of the most seasoned and experienced hands at peddling mythology to readers, has published at a furious pace for the past two decades and more — often making you wonder whether he is for real. Just short of 50, a prolific writer on almost everything, he has already traversed the epic Ramayana route to now turn his attention to the heroism of a determined tribal chief pitted against a huge invading force comprising 10 kings from neighbouring countries. The battle lasts but one day and results in a brutal massacre of the invaders. Banker unlocks the secret behind the success of King Sudas in this impossible battle in the style of a historical novel, which should interest and absorb readers of all age groups.
His ability to write seamless tales with panache makes Banker a formidable name in a genre where he has several competitors but few peers. Mythological stories are the stuff of every culture’s folklore and have a special place and significance in introducing, especially, the younger generation to the intriguing world of their ancients. The Rigveda, among several other tracts, provides the indefatigable author his staple and true to his wont of staying as close to the original as possible, Banker here takes few chances and pulls it off with aplomb.
He may be the Indian Mythology Man, and the world may be forever fascinated by myths. But one has to be a good and intelligent observer and an honest writer to ensure that the reader stays engaged and spellbound.
While one has always been fascinated with Alexander the Great, Ptolemy, Rameses, Herod and so on, the world of Hindu mythology, with its penchant for decoding the philosophical dimensions of war and peace, is also chockful of juicy tales — provided you have Banker’s eye for detecting potential in a tale to be effectively retold.
Banker’s retelling of Indian mythology, especially his Ramayana Series, has won him accolades and also got his books on bestseller lists.
One is told how he is planning to write an Epic India Library, comprising more than 70 books that can be categorised as Mythology, Itihaas, History and Future History. The Itihaas section will interest all those who like to see the proverbial 50 shades of grey in history, never really a convenient black-and-white scheme.
Even for those who do battle honestly and die honourably, life should hold some meaning other than sheer survival. Here we have Sudas who does not fear death, being maimed or grievously wounded. It was the lot of a kshatriya, after all, to do his best and he had known and was prepared for the inevitable all his waking life. Things get complicated when one’s enemies are one’s own kith and kin.
If you want to know what happens in these circumstances, there is Banker to take you on a conducted tour of dollops of fable with a smattering of fact. One should not worry about either defeat or tears, and that is lesson number one of all mythology. Tears are human: it is the cruelty of men who seek to enslave, kill and slaughter other men which is inhuman and unnatural.
After all, every living creature deserves to be accorded some respect. Banker gives his own soft touches to the Sudas persona so that his hero emerges as someone likeable and respectable.
Even as supercilious invaders roar in unison and generally make life miserable for him, Sudas does not run away but, in fact, fights till the very end. It must have been a very satisfying day’s battle at the end of it all.
Before he discovered that there was a huge captive readership in the mythology genre, this Banker with credibility and the gift of telling a good story well had tried his hand at various styles. He wrote extensively on films as well. But as this volume shows, he found his true calling only later when he chose to engage the curiosity of those who want epics larger than life.