Plot Discussion: Yes, the title sounds weird and confusing, but the book is a wonderful journey into Indian mythology and the oddities that it contains. This is the tale of Yuvanashva, a King who is denied his right to sitting on the throne by his own mother because he fails to produce an heir to the throne, even after having three wives. After years of trying naturally, he seeks the answer in the supernatural and that backfires when he drinks the potion that was meant for his wives and hence, the strange title of the story.
The whole book then follows Yuvanashva and him fighting his maternal instincts. One of his first dilemmas being what should his son call him, mother or father? Pattanaik plays with the timeline a little and tells this story with a few others from the Mahabharat like of Shikhandi, the daughter of king Darupad (yes, the father of Draupadi) who raised her like a man so he could take revenge on his enemies. Shikhandi later borrows male genitals from a demon and has a child. There is also a story of Somvat who gives up his male genitals to be the wife of his best friend because of a misunderstanding.
The book very aptly points out how thin a line there is between the Male and the Female powers. The issue of sexuality and gender is a very big one in this day and age when people tend to forget that we our self have mythologies and hence come from a culture that was tolerant, but yet very private.
The Pregnant King is a fast paced book and has a lot of information in its few pages. I read it in two days flat and can say it is a very different take on the myths on India which usually focus more on the wars and the demons while this very fascinating tale was kept hidden from us for ages, kudos to Pattanaik for unveiling it to us in such an interesting way.
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This review has been contributed by Ridhu Bhatia. Ridhu is a writer, karaoke singer and Potterhead. A punk in the garb of a nerd, Ridhu loves tattoos and technology alike and definitely looks at the world through pink tinted glasses.
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