Book Review: Shattered Dreams – Book 2 | Ramayana – The Game of Life by Shubha Vilas

Title:  Shattered Dreams, Book 2

Series: Ramayana: The Game of Life

Author: Shubha Vilas

Publisher: Jaico Publishing House

Publication Year: 2014

ISBN 13: 9788184955316

Binding: Paperback

Number of pages: 387

Price: Rs 350

 

Shattered Dreams is the second book in Shubha Vilas’ Ramayana Series.  In this book, the story begins just before Dasharatha’s decision to pass on the reins of Ayodhya to Rama, and ends after the famous Rama-Bharata Dharma-Dharma dialogue at Panchvati. Deftly peppered along the way are the author’s footnotes and philosophical discourses to make the book relevant to modern life.

 

How many Ramayana does it take to tell it all?

The last few years has seen a surge in Indian literary works that revolve around the twin epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. There are, then, tales that revolve around the diversion and mini-stories that both these epics have embedded. And somehow, there is always something more. Something that you might not have known already.

What’s more important is to remember the relevance of the book to the believers. Ramayana, or the tale of Rama, the finest among men (Maryada Purushottam), in the Indian mythos-ethos, is often the book of reference. It’s the book that tells you right and wrong. I have known too many people who in times of deep distress or difficulty, close their eyes and open a random page of Ramayana or Ramacharitmas, read a few verses, and find peace. For it is their pathway into righteousness. I am not one of them.

That, however, also makes you wonder whether or why you’d pick one more such book without knowing if there is any new and interesting titbit in this version.

 

In that space, does this version of Ramayana, which is just a translation and a philosophical discourse, fit?

 

Shubha Vilas’ Ramayana – The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams (Book 2) is one that did not excite me at the outset. The context and the title don’t give me enough push to pick the book. The blurb also suggests that it’s as much a retelling as it is a philosophical discourse around Ramayana’s relevance to everyday life. That part? Neither. So, in reality, I picked it up because of Blogadda.

 

So, let’s first talk about what works and what’s good.

There are newer touches. For example, the tale of Kaikeyi’s mother, or of Dasharatha’s promise to King Ashwapati, Kaikeyi’s father. Or, the story about Guha and Lakshmana trusting but never fully trusting each other.

The narration stays close to being a literal translation, a well researched literal translation. The frequent reference to the actual Sanskrit words/ verses and their contextual interpretation is a nice addition to aid one’s understanding of the epic.

For those who are interested in debates around a whole set of events that place in Ramayana, even though Ramayana is often considered to be the blander of the two mega-epics because of its morally upright viewpoint all the time, the frequent footnotes often provide explanations that will fuel some thoughts and introspection.

 

What doesn’t work?

The book is sluggish in pace, and has few new elements to offer.  There are very few incidents and stories that are new or unheard of in the translated Ramayana world.

The simplicity of Kaikeyi has always unnerved me. For someone who has the wits to manoeuvre a battlefield, Kaikeyi continues to be a simpleton in most versions of Ramayana, who so easily gives up his love of Rama and is manipulated by Manthara. I would love someone to research this aspect and tell a more interesting tale.

I noticed some linguistic inconsistencies too. Rama, for instance, never addresses Kaikeyi as just Kaikeyi. There should always be the “Mother” prefix/suffix associated with it. To address her otherwise would be a blemish on his personality, for he never lets down his guards and has never really blamed Kaikeyi for anything. For instance – “The boons he had given Kaikeyi” can not be a Rama statement. Also, his tone and explanation at quite a few points suggests a level of resentment towards Kaikeyi. Example – “His greatest worry was mother Kaushalya’s safety from the tortures of Kaikeyi”. In the truest form of Ramayana, that does not seem right.

The language is too dramatic and hence, in a different time and space than the audience that is reading it. For instance, the continuously fainting and rolling on the floor in agony kind of Rama and Bharata somehow seem out of place.

While the philosophical notes are good, the interruptions happen a little too often. The debates happening at the end of a complete sub-section would be my preference. And unfortunately, the interruptions are less reflective, more pedantic. Like the one on Rama’s management sutra. On a positive note, probably, they are meant to make you pause more often and reflect on what the text means to the reader.

Lastly, the Kaikeyi episode/ Ayodhya kaand is one of the ripest sections of Ramayana for a moral conflict and ideological debate. There are multiple conflicts here – Dasa-Kaikeyi, Kaikeyi-Rama, Rama-Sita, Rama-Kaushalya, Rama-Sita, Rama-Lakshman, Lakshman-Urmila, Lakshman-Sumitra, Rama-Ayodhya, Rama-Bharata, and so on. And each of these conversations is an opportunity in itself. Unfortunately, it does not come across as enough justice has been done to most of these conversations.

 

The book at an overall did not quite work for me. But it may work for many others with a deeper faith in the epic and who are looking for a debate on the epic. If I had to read another retelling of Ramayana, I would probably go back to Ashok Banker’s Ramayana series.

 

I would go with a 2 on 5 stars for this book.

 

 

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

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