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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review : 'Asura: Tale of the Vanquished - The Story of Ravana and his People' by Anand Neelakantan

What makes Anand Neelakantan’s ‘Asura: Tale of the Vanquished’ special? Is it the never ending prose, with which he describes Lanka’s emperor? Is it the words he uses to perhaps understand the man and his times? Or perhaps it is his views on the state of the country, the causes, and their results?

No. It is not. 

What truly makes it special is the effort with which, it was written. And the subject, which makes it all the more interesting. Ravana makes not just a subject in the book, but he carries it forth albeit, a little precariously. His views are put forth with a sense of justice, making him not the villain as he was always portrayed, but as a man, with all the views, values, and the ability to drive him over the edge, on which he stood.

The story begins with watching him die. The End. But with very poignant words, when Ravana says with true regret, “I only wanted to return to my childhood and start over again, every single damn thing, again, again and again…”

He goes on to describe who he was, what happened and what could have happened. The one thing that struck me is how much it reminded me of a history text book, pages and pages of history almost being lectured to me. There are pages, I felt could have been done away with.

But still, I read on. So many parts of mythology, which I did not know, never read and probably was  never interested in. Rama’s society takes on an evil note, but so does Ravana’s. I met characters all over again. Characters, whom I wold not have read about, or given any importance to in the Ramayana. But while reading the Ravanayana, you are forced to give them all another thought.

Of Ravana’s wife, of his sister, of his friend, of his sons both illegitimate and otherwise. And of Ravana’s first born, of his daughter, Sita. I was interested to know of so many wonders of Lanka, of the wonders of medicine, architecture, and arms, and contraptions like the Pushpaka Viman. It had me in awe.

A good book, with so much potential falls short. Falls short by its length, and one can see that the author’s words in a few areas are so ill-written, that it reads as if it were a lecture. I think that the book could have been written, if the author had forgotten to lecture his audience. Though it is well meant and is almost close to every human being’s thought process, it loses its essence.

Yet, I bought it and read it.

Because of the protagonist. Curiosity got the better of me, and I could see the reasons behind the decisions. The decision of a man and his words, “…, God is a very personal thing and prayer needs to be spoken silently in my heart.”
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