Does all Indian writing have to be only in English to attract attention (market) and qualify as literature (mainly abroad)? Is knowledge of English synonymous with scholarship? What is the percentage of our people benefitting from the English publications? Will the English-reading public in India today have no stomach for a serious study of the epic? How do we acquaint ourselves with significant writing in India's own various languages?
Anyway, since this doesn't purport to be a usual book review, I like to thank all those who helped me discover Maharanye in my long quest pertaining to Mahabharata, and to summarize as best I can, in this impressionistic survey, her path-breaking findings and formulations. In an expatriate's life, still moored to his native locus, his referents still anchored, however tenuously or dubiously, in an ancient culture and its artifacts, such mental replenishment and stimulating recreation comes once in a long while like a lucky accident. Perhaps my enjoyment of Maharanye and my sense of excitement derive, in part, from this personal circumstance. But its third edition now out, and its Asamiya and Oriya translations published, I have reason to believe that I am not
the only one so struck by this wonderful contribution to our understanding of the epic. A ''Hindustani'' critiquing a book in Bengali is an oddity which should be chalked to my innate reckelessness in ranging far and wide in search of excellence.
The satisfaction of having properly understood a great work of all times, with invaluable help from painstaking exegetes, is a unique sensation. Pratibha Basu, in her ''creative quest'' (a phrase of Joseph Campbell's) has met a serious challenge four square and acquitted herself with scholarly distinction in a field littered with devotional pieties, unquestioned reverence, righteous obfuscations, and irrational straight jackets of blind faith. Books like Mahabharata are not meant to be worshipped unread. They are to be read, not superficially, but explored industriously for hidden meanings from multiple angles not apparent on the surface. Maharanye induces such study, study as an enterprise, as a cornucopia of multitudinous experience. Its insights illuminate. It guides and inspires us to read intelligently, enquiringly. It exhorts us to be critically engaged, to be involved, with Mahabharata in a more abiding but critical and judicious way. It is strange that