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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…

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