So, yet again I am honoured to be called upon by BlogAdda to review a book. This time it is "Ramayana - The Game of Life : The Shattered Dreams" by Shubha Vilas.
This book is a sequel to the first book in the series - Rise of the Sun Prince, one which I had not heard about owing to my very busy family life in the past few months.
(Motherhood is a job that keeps one super busy and oblivious to the whole world!)
The prequel is said to be a huge success and BlogAdda sent me a copy of book 2 in the series to read and comment upon. Commenting upon the Ramayana, which has been read by millions the world over and written by some of the finest authors around the globe, is by no means an easy task. But given that BlogAdda and my blog-following well-wishers have immense faith in me, I shall attempt to give an unbiased and honest opinion.
Truth be told, I was wondering how much I would really enjoy this book. One, I am not a big fan of the Ramayana, reserving my affection and curiosity instead for the multi-faceted Mahabharata. Two, I believe the Ramayana is a simplistic tale and the lessons preached by Lord Rama are impossible to adopt in real life. Three, I am firmly against the way Sita was treated throughout the story.
Yet, reviewing a book is always a challenge and a sweet one at that. So, there. Maybe my view of the Ramayana would change with this book...
While the cover illustration by Kunal Kundu is fascinating, the back cover reveals the plot of the book. Here are some excerpts, those that I couldn't have described any better myself: The book teaches us how to handle reversals positively; through Bharata’s actions, it teaches us to handle temptation; and through Sita’s courage, to explore beyond our comfort zone. This complicated family drama provides deep insights on how human relationships work and how they fail. With Valmiki’s Ramayana as its guiding light, Shattered Dreams deftly entwines poetic beauty from the Kamba Ramayana and Ramacharitramanas, as well as folk philosophy from the Loka Pramana tales, to demonstrate how the ancient epic holds immediate relevance to modern life.
Shattered Dreams talks about the time when Dasharatha wants to crown Rama as king of Ayodhya and the following chain of events up until Rama, Sita and Lakshmana leave Chitrakoot for Dandakaranya forest. Kaikeyi chooses to redeem her two boons and Bharata atones for his mother's sinful behavior in this enchanting story.
What struck me the most was the beautiful description of characters, events and emotions by the author. Shubha Vilas has done complete justice to the scene where Rama accepts exile and proceeds to inform his decision to the people who matter the most to him. The sorrow of the citizens of Ayodhya is also explained in a manner that keeps the reader rapt with attention. Bharata's anger and agony is worth reading and re-reading, as much for his sincerity and humility as it is for his love for Rama. He comes across as very endearing, and the number of times he has to prove his intent is enough to move any self-respecting individual to tears.
I particularly loved Rama's introductory description and Ravana's egotistical pursuits. The exciting and fast paced narrative kept me spellbound. Quite a feat, I must say, given that books that the current generation brings to the top of the bestselling charts (read Chetan Bhagat) leave me confused and bored.
To make an old and oft-heard story feel new and intriguing, now that's the mettle of a great storyteller. I wept when Rama was banished and my tears flowed faster when the plights of Lakshman, Sumantra and citizens of Ayodhya was described.
The story is well researched and filled with lesser known tales and anecdotes. For example, I did not know that Vidura in the Mahabharata is actually Dharmaraj, the God of death, cursed to be born on earth by Ani-Mandavya. Jayanta's shameful act and Manthara's reason for revenge were also unknown to me.
Another highlight of the book is the trivia. There are footnotes and paragraphs that elaborate facts and lessons about life, destiny, sin and death.
Personally, I learnt a lot of lessons, and hopefully they will stay with me and guide me as I live my complicated life. Like how Kaushalya had learnt to accept her fate as a lesser loved wife and rather than creating family feuds, she focused on serving the community.
I also realized that I identify with Lakshmana who is quick to react and unable to accept situations patiently and calmly. I can totally relate to his experience and transformation from an angry young man to a helpless brother when Rama vowed to follow Kaikeyi's instructions.
A myriad of interwoven tales that connect the present to the past and future, and you begin to see a link in all the stories that you have ever read or heard as children and adults.
I thought that towards the middle, the book kind of lost steam. Or maybe that was the intention given the heavy start and resounding climax. The narration, however, could have been more lucid and attractive so as to keep the reader engaged. I also have a few concerns regarding the editing and language of the book viz punctuation and grammar, but that's plain old me you know... forever the perfectionist, grammar geek to the core.
As usual, very little has been spoken about Shatrughana throughout the Ramayana and this book is no different. I am quite curious on that aspect, and I would have liked to understand his role in the Ramayana a little better had the writer dedicated a few pages to him.
Overall, the book is a mighty good effort to make the Ramayana a wee bit more accessible and interesting to youngsters. It is not an exhaustive tale, in the sense that you will have to look up a few hints scattered across the pages to connect all the dots (if you're as particular about details as I am).
How would I rate this book?
Let me tell you this, parts of the book were so amazing that I went ahead and ordered the prequel for myself. Actions speak louder than words, you see!
So, grab a copy and enjoy reading The Game of Life by Shubha Vilas - first the Rise of the Sun Prince and then Shattered Dreams. (Unlike me, I will now read the first 12 years of Rama's life before book 2 begins.)
Jai Shri Ram!
This review is a part of the biggest http://blog.blogadda.