The Boy from Pataliputra traces the journey of a young boy named Aditya from Pataliputra to Takshila. The two cities were the two defining places for Bharat Varsha in the 3rd BCE. This was the time of Chanakya and of Charak. This was the time when Alexender was conquering the world and this was the time when India was trying to consolidate itself as one nation. Taxila was the best university in the world and students and scholars here were the envy of the world. An interesting time it must have been. So stories from this time are bound to be interesting – as long as the storyteller can do the justice.
Rahul Mitra does a great job of bringing alive the era in which the story is set. The story opens with few scenes from Magadh – highlighting the rising conflict between Buddhists and Hindus. Circumstances leave a young Aditya with no choice but to go to Taxila. What follows is a lovely description of the caravan that travels from Magadh to Taxila.
I am not sure how much of this description is from the research and how much from the author’s imagination. It tells you in great detail about the river route, land route and the relationships between the kingdoms on the way. I enjoyed reading about traded objects, traders, caravan security and protocols. You not only get a feel of the country as the caravan moves from east to west but also get to learn about the trade logistics of those times.
At Taxila, you learn about the city structure – a part of which belongs to the students and acharyas and another to the wealthy traders. How the traders trained their employees and how students funded their education is interesting. There is even an eatery which is like the modern day college canteen or chaiwallah, where most conversations happen and where the idea of revolution takes birth. I think this is where some bit of modern day politics have been injected into the story. However, we would never know what was the relationship of students with politics in good old days.
There is a thread of love story – for the hero cannot be complete without his heroine. At some point in the story I felt it was a love story, but then the author brought us back to Taxila. I guess this thread was needed to keep a soft angle in the story. You learn about the way wars used to happen. How the rivers played the natural demarcation for the armies and kingdoms. You learn about the alliances made and the role the public can potentially play in all this.
I liked the language of The Boy From Pataliputra – it is a balanced mix of contemporary and old world words. So, you have a ‘Kautuhulshala’ or an ‘Acharya’ that keep you hooked in the period while the simple but elegant English keeps you comfortable with your known language. I read a lot of historical fiction and I know not many authors have the vocabulary or the skill to create an era with their words. Rahul Mitra is not the best at that, but he does a good job of creating the era with his narration.
Despite having read the history of that era, there are many things I gathered from this book. Like the time when Chanakya had just started talking about Bharatvarsha. I learned the potential opposition he faced. The fact that he was an Acharya or a teacher, he was able to influence and organize students. I also learned that Charaka – the medicine guru was contemporary of Chanakya. Again, talks about a time when research and experiments were probably a way of life. The presence of a female warrior tells about the freedom women enjoyed in that society.
In most history oriented books, I end up pointing out some factual errors, but I did not spot any in this one. Known facts, little-known facts, unknown facts, and fiction are mashed up well and soaked in ample Rasa that keeps you curious about the story.
You may buy this book – The Boy from Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra at Amazon.
The Boy from Pataliputra is the first book in the Pataliputra Trilogy by Rahul Mitra. I am definitely looking forward to reading the next books in the series.
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