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Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review of Ramayana: The Game of Life by Shubha Vilas

Interestingly enough, Shubha Vilas holds a degree in Electronics and Telecommunications and an LLB in Patent Law. You would wonder what is a person so highly qualified doing writing spiritual books? Well, you might wonder all you like but I'm not appalled by Vilas' skills. Well, I have my reasons.

To start with, he writes on the Ramayana, a story or a legend that is hardly unknown to anyone. It is a stunning surprise that his first, "Rise of the Prince" was a bestseller in spite of the fact that almost everyone has either read, seen or heard the Ramayana. Well, so, he chose to write a book that everyone has written about. O.K. But, hang on!

Now, when you do something that has been repeatedly done, you try to do it differently. Sadly, there is nothing different about it. The Ramayana is exactly as it is in the popular literature. There are a large number of versions of the Ramayana. There is one where Ravana is the hero, there are Ramayana tales from the perspectives of different characters. A feminist Ramayana from Sita's perspective also exists. The role of Laxman's wife Urvashi is duly ignored in all Ramayana's. Vilas doesn't do anything to polish Urvashi's character either. There are poetic versions of Ramayana and surprisingly enough, the epic version has also been told in a few 100 tweets. Apparently, 240 odd. The Buddhist Ramayana depicts Rama and Sita as siblings because in the Ishvaku dynasty, it was necessary to retain the sanctity of the dynasty. The Jain version does state that the characters in Ramayana are not Gods but mere humans or as they put it, mortals. Thus, one can see that there are countless versions of the Ramayana.

Now, when you write a tale that has been told and retold, you do claim to write it differently; whether you do it or not is another matter. Well, he claims to philosophise the Ramayana in accordance with temporary times in his Author's note. Are they tall claims? That'll depend on perspective. How does he philosophise the Ramayana in-keeping with contemporary times? He adds end notes amidst the story and at quite a few places, boxes explaining the philosophies. Now, those notes and those boxes are boring to anyone who is looking to read fiction. It comes across as a course book or something of that sort. Either, he'd write the philosophies separately, independent of the epic Ramayana or he could use stories from contemporary settings in order to explain his philosophies. That would be much better than inserting them in the middle of Ramayana. Thus, all in all, I was very unimpressed with the work.

Now, coming to the language aspect of the book, I’ll say it was amazing by the standards of Indian writing. One wouldn’t come across irritating grammar and syntax errors while reading this book and that is quite a feat to achieve for an Indian bestseller writer. I’m hoping for something more intriguing and more enlightening than a boring Ramayana retelling from someone of the calibre of Shubha Vilas.
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