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Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: 'Sita's Ascent' by Vayu Naidu

Sita’s Ascent reads like Sita’s Descent literally as well, and not just going by the cover. When I first bought the book, I was hoping for it to read a little differently. Though, of course when I saw the cover of the book, which depicted Sita going back into the ground on the lap of mother earth, I should have known how it would read. 

Yet, I bought it hoping that it gave Sita, her due chance. The Ramayana was the first mythological book I have ever read. I remember when I first read it as a child, that I had not followed it like the Mahabharata as it lacked the sleekness of the Mahabharata. 

Sita’s Ascent claims to be Sita’s version of events. It deals with the aftermath of the war. Of Rama, of Lava and Kusa, of Valmiki, of Urmilla, of the great Ashwamedha and of Hanuman.

Yet, all these characters including the protagonist, Sita seem to be weighed down by Rama. After all, the Ramayana was his story. 

It does not show Sita as a character with strength and courage. But as somebody, who is firstly the damsel in distress, and then as the sacrificing and patient woman, that she must have been.

It fails to remind us of her true character, the same strong woman, who managed to move Shiva’s bow while playing, showing not just her physical strength but also her mental ability. 

Also, the courageous woman who willingly followed her husband into the forests of Panchavati and the heroic woman, when she transforms into a fearless icon, who defies Ravana during her forced stay in Lanka. 

Also, a lady with immeasurable patience while she awaits her husband and then goes through the fire when Rama doubts her morality. 

There are so many points at which Sita’s true character with all its essential elements could have come out, but it was sadly lacking in this book.

This bit about the time with Valmiki, the unusual birth of Kusa and her children’s fight with Rama is a small one. And so it remains. I did hope for more of Lava and Kusa, at least. Anyway, it ended and it was much awaited too. 

While it could have touched so many elements to bring out the real Sita, it just shows her as a weak victim of all the atrocities that she is put through. Therefore, the damsel in distress remains true to her character. I had hoped for a little more from the book, a certain subtlety, perhaps. Because this book, does not run its course. 

I felt that it had too many interruptions, too much justification for characters like Rama and Lakshmana. It fails to show what Vayu Naidu attempts to show. The problem, I thought lay with the manner in which it was written. Should it be the novella or play, or perhaps the performance of oral traditions, which the author is known for?

This seemed to be a melee of these elements. If the author had found an underlying theme only then could she have converted these things in her mind before she convereted it into the book. It becomes very difficult for readers to imagine anything, as not even a single element of the heroine's personality comes across.

Naidu claims in her Note, that instead of viewing Sita as the victim that I should empathise and identify with her character. 

But then again, even if I wanted to, then what was the point of the entire story, which she weaved. ‘Had Sita been a victim she would not have survived’, is what Naidu says.
But then, how would she explain so many characters in reality today, who are suffering and going through the pain and hurt, everyday which Sita was put through? And are still surviving…

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rape doesn't need discussion. It needs punishement.

I do not know whether to be thankful to the Lok Sabha or just plain angry. What does make me angry was the fact that most MPs and Ministers were missing. Only 168 members of the LS were present, though it went up to 198 during the amendment session. 

Sadly, Sonia Gandhi who seemed to be present during the long debate, was absent during the actual passing of the bill, not to mention our PM and also the Congress VP, Rahul Gandhi, among others. Not to mention the opposition too. BJP’s party president Rajnath Singh was missing from action as well.

I mean apparently, all these so called members who are supposed to represent us are missing. So, what happened? I would like to know. 

Firstly, it is happening only in the wake of what happened to the student in the Delhi bus. Isn’t it a shame that it is only now, that the government wakes up, as does the news media in reporting the same. If one has noticed it is only now, that I am reading about rapes almost every day in the newspapers. It is a crying shame that I am reading about even little children being raped every other day.

Shouldn’t they be punished severely? Should the society not want to punish these rapists? One reads everyday about children being raped, even infants. How could we let it go?  They deserve a worse punishment.

Instead, all these people were up in arms about consensual sex being down to 16? I mean why does this even warrant a discussion? Would it change anything? 

Of course, we should all be thanking our stars that the LS left the age at 18. Even worse, was the entire discussion on how to term the word, rape?  Honestly, in the wake of things, it was not even a matter for discussion. 

Having a lengthy debate about such a bill is not a matter of pride. It is a crying shame. The members should have stood together in the discussion against rape and the severest of punishments meted out for it.

Indians can be truly proud, when our representatives stand together against rape and its repercussions, when we hand out the worst punishments to such people who have gone against this law and hurt the moral fibre of not just the society but also, all the women who have been victimized.

More unnecessary discussion at the Rajya Sabha now. Whatever for?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Of Trilogies and More…

It seems to be the time for trilogies and I of course, in my desperate need to find out what would happen next, do read them. They are not of a suspenseful nature, but the thing about writing, masterful or otherwise is what draws me to them.

And unfortunately, I did not find the good trilogy. Of course, this is going to be a little odd, because not only am I mentioning a brilliant author (Jeffrey Archer) but also a mediocre one (Amish).Archer and Amish struggle after the first book. That's the funny thing about trilogies. The author has to maintain the pace, emotion and the need to read the next one, whatever the reason may be.

Archer failed to do it his second book, and in the third one he manages to pick the reader's interest before dropping the ball. Same with Amish. His first book draws the audience in thanks to firstly, the subject and secondly, the suspense. I looked forward to the second one, but it did not live up to expectations.

Wonder how JK Rowling did and Archer too, earlier? The second book had to have a subject, and the subtle characterisations, which draw the reader in, making you, feel as if you are a character. Basically, you have to ‘own’ the book.

While I mentioned that Archer was brilliant in his first book and was hoping for the end in the first one itself, it did not work too well in his mind. The second book, ended with the promise of the third one, ‘Best Kept Secret’. Unfortunately, Archer is right. This book would have ‘best been kept a secret’.

It almost felt like a third rate Hindi soap opera especially, with Giles Barrington’s wedding to Lady Virginia. You have the usual nonsense about a woebegone love story, a marriage, and a divorce. I am yet to find out why this entire episode was created, built and ended.

Of course, you do see Harry Clifton go from a mediocre writer to a clever author, Emma Barrington go from an innocuous housewife to a brilliant woman, showing every bit of the woman she was in the second book, ‘Sins of the Father’. 

And now, in this book, you are also further introduced to Sebastian Clifton and the book ends with well, not the end but unfortunately a promise of another one. Should I mention the fact that I did not ask for them in the first place? Or just feel bad that I would end up buying the next one, as well? You win, Archer!!

And the next was the ‘Oath of the Vayuputras’. I really enjoyed ‘The Immortals of Meluha’, but again, unfortunately he was quite bad with the second book, ‘The Secret of the Nagas’. Amish does pick up pace, with the last one, managing to build a little suspense, but he just goes on and on. His book loses the swiftness, which it promised at the beginning of the book. 

Much as I enjoyed the adventures of Sati, who in the end, does show her skill with her combative tactics and her martial cleverness, which she showed in the first book, before her frozen demise. (Literally, frozen because I thought that’s what happened to Amish’s writing skills.)

Amish lost it completely when he imagines her rise up from her frozen self, when she comes alive as ghost in front of Ganesh and Kartik.  Creepy and funny too! But it ended and that was brilliant. However, Archer does not make the oath in his Clifton Chronicles. Two more sequels to wait for. Hopefully, they would be better. Sigh…

PS : I also think that Amish might write the Mahabharata again, I truly wish him all the best and hope that he has managed to retain the skill he showed in his first book.

I’m gonna blame the authors and book for this third rate review. :)