So, the wait was finally over and I slept peacefully after devouring the second book of the Ramachandra series. This book delves on the other significant central character of the epic Ramayana, Sita. It’s written in the same simple, easily flowing signature style of the author. No big words, no heavy philosophy, just simple interactions of the regular people, which though are not as simple or straightforward as they appear.
It’s the story about how King Janaka and his queen Sunaina found the baby Sita in the woods, resisting the wolves, fighting to survive. It took one strong woman to recognise another. Sunaina nurtures and moulds the little Sita to become the future ruler of the small kingdom of Mithila. Sunaina’s dreams for Sita and Mithila are intertwined and become the core of the mother-daughter relationship.
What I liked about the book was how the character of Sita was developed. She’s no longer the docile, subservient pati-parneshwar woman who meekly followed her husband into the jungles without as much as a word of protest. From the very beginning Amish has focussed on the individuality of Sita, as a strong, self-willed, intelligent, sensitive, pragmatic individual. Even as a child, she had clear ideas about right and wrong. Her feisty nature is evident when she breaks the royal seal which Kushadhwaj, king of Sankashya, brings with him when he tries to assert his superiority and manipulate Mithila into becoming its vassal. Amish brings out her planning and strategizing strengths from time to time. Not demure beauty waitng for her prince charming, Sita manages to get Ram to Mithila to participate in her swayamvar. Her heart may skip a beat whenever she’s with Ram, yet it’s her head which works overtime trying to evaluate every action. Both as a husband and as Vishnu, if Ram had to be her partner, he had to pass through a series of evaluations to meet her expectations. That Sita was also an able diplomat was brought out in several instances in the book. The way she handled the sensitive ego of the Maharishi Vishwasmitra, avoiding confrontations with Maharishi Vashistha, and convincing the Ayodhya princes about their participation in the swayamvar. It all needs dexterity and subtly which she exhibits with aplomb. Sita has being created as the perfect combination of beauty, brains and brawns. Yes. She could fight like tigress, has the stealth of a cat and the eye of an eagle.
Now for the drawbacks or things I didn’t like. For starters, there were too many references to our present society and social conditions. Similarities like the gang rape and brutal murder of Manthara’s daughter is very similar to the infamous Nirbhaya case. Or the mention of Jallikattu, the controversial game from Tamil Nadu which burned the headlines for a long time. Or the constant jibes referring to “India” and our lack of respect for rules and laws of the land. What was most jarringly out of place was the use of “India” instead of Bharat. I mean, I don’t think India even existed then; it was Bharat. Such socio-political innuendoes were not palatable, at least to me. Comparison to the Shiva trilogy is unavoidable and inevitable. Yet the one thing that stood out distinct in the earlier series is the way the society was described and developed that it made the reader feel as if he or she was living there. It engulfed the reader in its flow and rhythm. This kind of connect was missing in this book. There was something seriously amiss. Maybe the characters were incomplete and aloof. Or the flow of the story was not keeping up with the characters. Or maybe an absence of some form of seamless continuity.
On the whole, was a wonderful book. Certainly, worth the wait. Looking forward to reading the third instalment. It’s about Ravana (have read the promotion booklet which was sent along with the book). Ravana is one of my favourite characters from the epic. Became my favourite after reading Anand Neelkantan’s book “Asura”. Anyways, keeping my fingers crossed and waiting with bated breath.