Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review : Sons of Sita

Title : Sons of Sita
Author : Ashok K. Banker
Publisher : Wisdom Tree
ISBN : 978-81-8328-294-9

This story begins from a decade after Rama banished his wife and over these years he never enquired about her family's whereabouts. The Kingdom that he reigns now is far from being the ideal Ram Rajya. For reasons unknown, he is strongly influenced by bad advisors and war-mongering ministers Jabali and Bhadra, even to the extent that his two brothers Bharat and Shatrughan are subjected to a trial for being on the wrong side of the law. But it seems Rama has become immune, almost like a stone to the softer feelings that a human possesses. Under the garb of dharma, he is in the process of (almost) tyrannically conducting a Ashvamedha Yajna but actually using it as a cover for a full-scale invasion. 

Sita and her two sons Luv and Kush live in the isolated corner in the ashram of Maharishi Valmiki where she has effortlessly attuned herself to the duties of the present. The twins are trained by their mother in the art of warfare and they are growing up to become fearless and phenomenal warriors. Their paths cross their father's when they capture the sacred stallion of the Ashwamedha Yajna.

The way Rama is portrayed in the book, he comes across as anything but the undisputed hero or a godly figure. In fact, the narrative almost reduces him to a lackluster character.  Ashok K. Banker is a great story teller, is an established fact now. Backdrop portrayal, depiction of war scenes, building the crescendo towards the final confrontation are quite interestingly handled. But twisting the setting and the proceedings to such an extent that it makes the epic tale almost unrecognisable would surely leave the readers unsettled. It actually reminded me of Amish's Scion of Ikshvaku, which erred similarly. Trying to give mythological fable a contemporary shine through fancy words and settings does little to redeem the authors in these two books.

Though an engaging read, the only part which impressed me in this book is how Sita sums it all up during one of the concluding scenes of the face-off. "You failed utterly. That is why you will always be a broken god. Revered and worshipped, honoured and admired, but also doubted and despised. Each time someone speaks of your great works and exploits, another will remind them of your banishment of your wide and ask what god would do such a thing, and question your divinity. Today you had a chance to answer them once and for all, to silence those doubters, and you failed yet again. Now, for as long as your memory shall live, you shall be adored as a deva yet doubted as a man."

After reading this book, it is hard not to marvel at the way Devdutt Pattanaik portrays Sita and how his Rama exemplifies all the virtues that any human aspires to possess making him a truly anukarniy(to be followed) God . Devdutt's Sita is a strong, confident character yet extremely understanding as she knows she is as much a part of Rama as he is of her and anything otherwise can never exist.

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