Friday, February 13

Book Review: Ramayana - The Game of Life : Shattered Dreams

Hi Friends, 

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!


AKA Princess

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Friday, February 6

Turn Back Time

There is something extremely desirable about a guy who is possessive about his girl. A little bit of insecurity works wonders when it comes to intimacy in a relationship.

At least Sheena felt that way. 

After all there has to be  some proof that a loves and needs his woman like no one else, she mused. 

Trust is definitely important but sprinkle a little bit of jealousy in a relation and it blooms and blossoms in its excitement quotient...

Now this certainly wasn't a justification for her obsession with him, she was quite proud of the fact that she was crazy about Russell. So crazy that she drove him nuts. So crazy that she sometimes drove him away.

He asked her the other day why she was so upset, so glum and she said she didn't know. After the silence that ensued, he made a very intriguing observation, "I think you are missing a passion in life." 

Her first reaction was annoyance at his arrogant confession but it was soon followed by bewilderment. And then she smiled. Maybe he was right; she was indeed feeling low and demotivated. She thought about it all night and it dawned on her by morn that for the last couple of years all she had been passionate about was him. 


The man of her dreams. The object of her addiction.

Sheena was so mad about him that even someone calling him by his nickname Ross angered her.

The realization that this was a tad extreme was not lost on her. 

Yet, she thought she deserved a special place in his life and nobody could be permitted to trespass.

And that's where the trouble began. Ross, unfortunately, did not think so. 

He was of the opinion that they had their own sweet separate lives and that's how it was meant to be despite the fact that they were engaged to be married.

It pained Sheena, his lack of interest in her life and his stone cold attitude towards her distress. It appeared to her that he cared more for random strangers and colleagues than her. Now which woman would be okay with this? Not too many, she told herself.

All her life, Sheena had wished for great friends and an exciting life. Her few good besties fulfilled this desire amply. But when she met Ross, she felt she had found her soul mate and her contact with them reduced. Big mistake. She devoted all her time and attention to him and he initially reciprocated. As time flew, her life became empty and his got fuller with other people and activities. No surprise then that his priorities and pastimes changed while her need for him only multiplied.

To make matters difficult, Ross was the strong and silent types who did not mind being alone. He enjoyed spending time with people but he did not want anybody to make his life complete. He was calm and content in his solitude and he did not feel the sting of loneliness. He was good to all, and better to strangers and acquaintances than her, believed.

It did not bother Ross when Sheena described how someone had asked her out the previous day nor was he worried if she did not call for hours. Maybe he did not need to, as she called him several times a day and often in quick succession while he was busy. He did not always answer her calls and texts, something that she complained about. He believed in freedom and space, like most other men. He had a woman he trusted, unlike most other men.

Sheena had been a lovely lass when he met her but of late she had started to nag. He did not know what he was doing wrong and he had no clue how to fix this cribbing. He liked his work and he got to meet some interesting folks there. Sheena seemed to resent his happiness and bugged him for trivial reasons.

All this while their wedding day was looming near. 

Was it the right decision?

Was it too late to turn back? 

Would it truly be worthwhile to commit his love and life to this person that he adored but occasionally found tough to bear?

And that was the question on his mind as he started his day. 

Time and destiny would show him the right way, he was certain.

He stepped on the sidewalk and checked his pocket to ensure he was carrying his cell phone. Damn, he'd forgotten it again. Sheena's latest gift to him, his favorite mobile handset that had cost her a bomb but she had not said so once. He turned back to the house and picked up his phone.

Ten missed calls. Two texts.

Must be Sheena. How had she stopped at two texts?! She generally sent no less than five.

Text 1: As expected, from Sheena. It read, "Ross, call me now!!!"

Text 2: Again, Sheena. "Jerk!!"

Ross grimaced. Sheena brought too much drama into every mundane thing. Maybe he should call it off with her... 

He dialed her number and waited as the phone rang once, twice, thrice. Why wasn't she answering now?


Ross: "What the hell...."

An unknown man: "Hi, is this Ross?"

Ross: (a little taken aback) "Yes. Who's this?"

Man: "Your number was the last dialed on this phone. The woman carrying it was hit by a speeding car and she is being rushed to Malcolm hospital in a critical state as we speak...."


Dream last night

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