Interviewer: How would you describe yourself?
Arjuna: I will go ahead and describe myself as calm, composed, loyal, hard-working, and also immodest, going by the way I am appreciating myself (laughs). I am dusky in complexion, sharp eyes, long black hair.
Interviewer: What was your childhood like? Is it covered in the book?
Arjuna: What you call childhood in Kaliyuga range smaller than Dwaparayuga. But going by the semantics of this age, no, my childhood is not covered. I enter as a teen. However, the author says that my childhood in Upavan will be covered in flashbacks. It should have been there in this book if the author had gone in a linear fashion. But he has opted for an ad hoc, non-linear way of retelling the Mahabharata. Even though I grow older, I hope the readers will get to know a younger me.
Interviewer: How did you feel once you are brought back to Hastinapura? Did you miss the forest life?
Arjuna: I was, well, afraid, you know. I mean, I and my brothers, we practically grew up in a forest and we were accustomed to huts and grass, trees and rocks, but when we came to Hastinapura, we saw a palace and lights, buildings, and people. In the forest, we had little trysts with people, and they were travelers mostly. But here, these people were who we saw every day. That scared us. Bheema adjusted quickly. Others, including me, not so much. We still miss that rustic forest life. That had a charm in itself.
Interviewer: What’s the reason for the animosity between your brothers and the Kauravas?
Arjuna: Ego, jealousy, pride, greed, envy, fear, you name it. There are those seven deadly sins. I think that’s what the Kauravas have. Duryodhana, especially. He has been told that he is going to become the Yuvaraja, but then, we come in. He sees us as usurpers. Not to mention, his darker side is encouraged by an enemy having a grudge against Hastinapura.
Interviewer: Who is the real antagonist in your story?
Arjuna: I would like to say Duryodhana, but he is not a schemer. He is a man of action. The real antagonist is the one who plans everything from the background. Uncle Shakuni, if I so may be right. He complains of the injustice meted out to him and how his sister was not made Maharani as promised by the Grandsire based on a mere technicality that my father’s elder brother was blind. That must have hurt. But we are innocent in that matter, yet he strikes at us with impunity. He hates us and that’s what makes him dangerous.
Interviewer: With your own cousins at your throats, how do you cope?
Arjuna: We have a lot of patience in us. Mother taught us well. Father too, before his untimely death. We have been taught to follow the edicts of Dharma. It is in our blood. Oh, we have so wanted to crush Duryodhana! But we have restrained from doing so. (smiles)
Interviewer: How would you characterize your brothers?
Arjuna: Yudhisthira is a truth-speaking man with values and morals, Bheema is a man of action, loves food. Nakul is handsome and has a way with animals. And Sahadeva, well, he is Nakul’s twin. Not identical though. He has that gift of foresight.
Interviewer: Do you meet any of the characters from the Yadava track? How well do you correlate with them?
Arjuna: I meet Gada and Uddhava. I gel well with them. Especially Uddhava. In fact, we become good friends as the book nears to an end.
Interviewer: What can the readers expect from your track in the book?
Arjuna: Schemes, plots, animosity and hatred, drama. Not everything is original like the epic, but sub-plots of the author’s own creation are introduced.
Interviewer: What has the author planned for you in the next book? Do we get a romantic angle for anybody in the series?
Arjuna: Next book is all about our journey. It is about our trials of endurance. A romantic angle? Yes, there is a romance planned for the next book for both me and Bheema. We will get to know more in the next book.
So this was Arjuna, a protagonist from Varun Prabhu’s debut novel – Exodus, Book One of the Mahabharata Simplified Series, which releases on February 28th this year.