By Dr. Rajan Kaushal


Emperor Chandragupta by Adity Kay is a well-researched novel based on the life of Chandragupta Maurya. Published by Hachette India, the novel has shades of Walter Scott’s historical novels with an Indian flavour. The subtitle “Can One Man Build an Empire” suggests that it was not just Chandragupta who founded such a great empire but there was somebody else too. It was his political Guru and strategist Chanakya who chose a boy called Moriya, raised by a tribe of peacock tamers and christened him as Chandragupta. As he wanted to take revenge against the ruthless ruler of Magadha, he trained Chandragupta and helped him emerge as a great leader under his tutelage. Most of the time, youngsters are taught to develop leadership qualities but an example is never presented in front of them. This book delineates lucidly the rise of a leader because he was willing, and learnt to be a leader.

Every page in the novel creates a mystery, as if the author is going to whisper a secret into the ears of the readers soon, and this very fact makes the novel gripping. The book presents a stimulating tale of how, despite many obstacles, the protagonist fights to overcome them and faces all the challenges in his life. The very first page illustrates the positions of various empires like Magadha, Kashi, Anga and Vanga etc. and sets the tone and setting for the readers to go on an odyssey into the unexplored annals of Indian history. The book has been divided into three parts, the first, “The Lost Prince of Magadha”, the second, “The Warrior King of Magadha”, the third, “Dharma”.

The first part, “The Lost Prince of Magadha” has been further divided into ten sections narrating the story of Moriya, a mere teenaged boy becoming Chandragupta, the great warrior and emperor. It is a story which inspires and motivates youngsters, and tells them that it is not because of destiny but because of hard work, the will to excel and rock-hard determination that one becomes an emperor. It is his vision for the future that makes him different from others. It is his demeanor that converts a ferocious lion and bandits into his allies.

9789351950929 Prologue

There were no stars in the sky. There was no moon. Just the wet cold seeping through thick cloth and bone, and the fog slowly smothering the night.

Every once in a while, a truck would grope forward over the broken road. Sometimes a long-distance bus would rumble by, but no sooner would its headlights pass than the fog would flow back denser than ever before.

Milte hain dil yahaan, milke bichadne ko

Kishore Kumar’s voice floated from the direction of the ramshackle bamboo structure that lay fifty yards to the side of the road, perceptible through the fog only because of a Hasag lantern that was hung to its front, illuminating a sign that read ‘Exide Batteries’. fte small shop, one of the few that still operated on this side of the highway, sold batteries, torches, kerosene, hot tea, pakoras and, if you knew what to say and how much to pay, desi hooch. It was closed now, the coal ashed, and the front covered with tarpaulin.

But it was not empty.

On a charpoy, at the front of the shop, sat two men, one hunched slightly forward and the other leaning back and looking up at the sky, holding in his right hand a small transistor radio.

‘Why don’t you turn the radio off? Or at least change the channel. I hate Kishore Kumar.’

‘It’s my radio. It plays what I want it to.’

fte first man pulled his monkey cap closer to his skull and clenched tightly the two thick shawls draped over his body.

‘Tell me why you like Kishore Kumar again,’ he said, tapping the ground rapidly with his feet in a desperate attempt to stay warm. ‘Because he has a great voice.’ In sharp contrast to his companion, the man with the transistor had on, as his  shield against the numbing cold, only a flimsy grey sweater.

‘Because he has a great voice? That’s it? I mean that’s all you can say about the great Kishore Kumar? A ten-year-old would give that answer! Tell me the reasons why you like him, explain it to me.’

The man with the transistor said nothing.

majumdar-firebirdThe theatre stood in the neighborhood where Beadon Street cut through Central Avenue, a place where the dust of the city mixed with something…a breezy fragrance, something strange and sweet. It was a place he passed daily on his way to school, a place barely off the main street and close to his home, less than five minutes on the school bus if the traffic flowed easily. Marking the streets were aged tracks along which doddering trams clanged their way west, all the way to Howrah station and the river at the edge of the city. But that was not why the neighborhood felt strange.

Evening hung over the place, though it was not yet six. The darkness did not scare him. He was eager to get to the theatre around the corner. This was, he knew, the evening for the full rehearsal, with costumes and music and everything. His mother never took him along to full rehearsals. But he had wandered from the park where he played in the evening. With quiet determination, he had drifted through the snarl of the traffic. He knew these lanes a little – once, he had come here with his mother and her friends in a car which had left them right in front of the theatre. Today, as he walked on, he caught a whiff of flowers.

He looked around and realized what was different about these roadside stalls selling cigarettes and paan leaves. They all sold flowers. Stems of roses and thin garlands of white evening bloomers, jasmine, tuberoses – cold, moist, exquisitely formed blossoms that one saw in weddings as well as funerals. Music played from the tiny transistor radios hidden under the stacks of flowers and chewing tobacco, love songs from Hindi movies, many of them from many, many years ago, crackling on the airwaves in slow, nasal tones.