Like every other Indian kid, I grew up hearing the Ramayana at my mom’s knee. Amma kept me interested (and obedient) at the dinner table and during bed time with little tales of Rama’s life. Later on I graduated to Amar Chitra Katha, Rajaji and Devdutt Patnaik’s versions, but every retelling of this great epic brought new insights, interesting facts and thought-provoking questions.
This book ‘Ramayana – The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams- Book 2’ by Shubha Vilas also does not disappoint in this regard. I was delighted to be picked to review it and here’s my 2 cents on ‘Shattered Dreams’.
King Dasaratha of Ayodhya plans to retire from his position and install his eldest son Rama on the throne. Rama is not only his personal choice and the darling of the masses, but most suitable to be the next ruler of the Ishvaku clan. But as we all know, destiny has a different plan. The book outlines the events leading up to Rama’s entry into exile.
Drawing references and inspiration from Valmiki, Kamban and Tulsidas’ work, the author does a good job of describing Kaikeyi’s cruelty, Dasaratha’s anguish, Kausalya’s turmoil, Ayodhya’s despair, Rama’s equanimity, Lakshmana’s protectiveness and Sita’s love.
What stands out in this book:
- The author paints a vivid picture with words when he describes the celebrations for Rama’s coronation, Ayodhya grieving for their beloved prince, departure for exile, Rama and Sita’s deep bond, etc.
- There are various lesser known tales interwoven into the main narrative – stories of Ravana’s origins, Yama’s rebirth as Vidura, Shilavati stopping sunrise, Anusuya turning the Holy Trinity into children and so on.
- The characters could have been more multi-dimensional instead of merely black or white. But maybe then the author wouldn’t have been able to stay true to his epic inspirations.
- There is a moralistic tone to the entire book, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For instance, footnotes like this: “Just as the rushing water of a river uproots the trees on its banks, the restless and unrestrained mind can uproot one’s existence.” Plus there are various ‘points to ponder’ at the end of each chapter. However, these can be used for discussion with young minds, opening their minds to life lessons and values. This is, after all, why Rama’s story has been handed down from generation to generation over many centuries.