August 26, 2018

Book Review: Liberation of Sita by Volga

Liberation of Sita was a title which I had never heard of. It came to me via the Bangalore Book Club, which I am a member of. It is a translated work from Telugu, written originally by C. Vijayasree, who goes by the pen name Volga.

This book picks on the smaller unknown women in Ramayana and highlight their interaction with Sita, and each of these interactions changes her perspective about the meaning of her life, and what society has made her believe, and all that she has to unlearn. The story starts off when Sita has been abandoned by Rama and she lives in Valmiki's ashram with her two sons. She meets Surpanakha, Ahalya, Renuka and Urmila through her years on being married to Rama and each of them impart their learnings to her, helping her shape herself and be ready for the time when her sons will leave the forest to head back to their kingdom.

Surpanakha helps her see how beauty and the importance given to women's beauty by the society need not be a shackle on the woman itself. She explains to Sita how she found peace and solace in growing beauty in her garden and growing beyond physical beauty.

Ahalya questions the importance attributed to chastity when it comes to women only. She tells Sita much ahead in time they she should never prove her chastity, and at Lanka, that is exactly what she is compelled to do. Sita assuages her broken heart by trying to explain Rama's plight, but fails to look at the alternative, how Rama could have stood by her, being the king of the land they were headed to, Ayodhya.

Renuka and Urmila similarly opens Sita's eyes to the injustsice to women and how society has set rules which are unfair. They show Sita how breaking out of these bonds is essential to find your true self, and how each one of them has achieved peace and happiness on their own, with no husband, no societal rules and no bonds.

The interweaving of mythology and fiction is beautiful. and it did leave me in a state where I was believing each of the stories to be true. A very short read, and being a translated work, I am unsure how the language would have flowed originally in Telegu, but this book felt a little too simplistic, for a writer who is so acclaimed in Telegu. I believe, there is always some bits which are lost in translation.

Rating: 4/5

August 16, 2018

Book Review: Mandodari, the Queen of Lanka by Manini J Anandani

A book which will give every reader a completely different perspective on Ravana and it might even help in appreciating his decisions. The view on Lanka, the ruling of Lanka and how the kingdom came to stand at its zenith before its downfall at the hands of Rama.

We see a woman, thrown into the hands of fate, married to a powerful man, a determined and shrewd man, who she can only follow. She tries many times to advice, but Lanka seems to be ruled by a man who believes strongly in his beliefs alone. A man set to prove the world wrong in their expectations from him, and in the process, lose sense of how and where life is taking him.

Although the book is named, Mandodari, Queen of Lanka, I felt at the end of the book, that I knew so much about Ravana, his life, his achievements and his deeds. I can not say I know the same about the Queen though. The life at Lanka through the eyes of the Queen is what the book portrays, but if you are looking to understand the Queen more, that is something you would be left craving for, as I was. The only bit where I saw Mandodari, and her views and thoughts clearly, was when she decides to go away and deliver her baby, who she wants to bring into the world without anyone's knowledge. Her conviction, her belief and decisions are seen only here.

But, I have to add I enjoyed the story, the narrative was simple and engaging, at times a little too detailed though. I can very confidently say I learnt so much about Ravana and Lanka. This seems to fit the missing link, more like the alter story when we think of the Ramayana.