‘The Gurukul Chronicles’ by Smara (Radhika Meghanathan) tells the story of three boys and how their lives intersect— Eklavya of the Nishada hunter tribes, who dreamed of joining the Gurukul meant for Kshatriya princes; Karna or Radheya, he of divine birth who was adopted by a charioteer and who valued truth above all else; and Ashwatthama, a Rishi’s son.
All three of them have often been told that they are special but feel isolated; all three of them feel like misfits. All three of them encounter a magical being in the forest at various points in time that reveals their destiny to them. All three of them want more from life than what they are entitled to.
The book briefly touches upon the caste system and how the “high born” were privy to advantages that the lower castes were not. The issue of favouritism— of how some teachers are partial to some students— is also touched upon.
The boys’ relationship with their gurus, how it changes them and leads to the part that they would grow up to play in the Mahabharata war forms the crux of this book.
It is written in an engaging style, which brought to mind all the Percy Jackson books I had read about Greek Mythology. I didn’t find a single dull moment in this book. I looked forward to getting back to the book after chores done during the day. It held my attention and interest all through.
'The Gurukul Chronicles' won the manuscript award at the Pune Literary Festival in 2016 and was also launched at the Indian consulate in New York in 2018.