Monday, January 27, 2020

Books I read in 2020 #3

Review of Week 3 ending on 22/1/2020

Week 1 review can be found here
Week 2 review can be found here
Ok, so I finished the book, Scion of Ikshvaku this week. The feeling is mixed. As mentioned earlier, I liked the premise of the novel, but can’t say I was too thrilled to read.
One of the things I felt was that the author was superimposing the events of the present into the narrative. Especially the killing of Roshni after cruel gang rape led by a minor and the accused being spared by law because he was a minor alludes to the infamous rape case that happened in Delhi a few years ago.
Also, mentioning of Vyomkesh (undoubtedly referring to Byomkesh Bakshi, the famous fictional detective created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay) also was so unnecessary. It didn’t add to the narrative, I thought.
Although the book, much like the Shiva trilogy, we can see reference to actual places of today. And yet, the very concept of India was much different then as compared to what it was in those ancient times. It felt a bit forced – like a conscious effort to tie the past and present together.
Having said that, the idea that Ram wasn’t the favoured child was indeed a bold premise to develop the story. As expected, it depicts the protagonist as a normal human being (with idealistic views and ways) who elevates himself to a higher stature through his words and deeds. Of course, we will have to wait and see how it all ends…
Sita – Amish 
This can be termed as Sitayana or the journey of Sita. Much like Ram, she is also troubled with many things – her birth and status as she grows up. Amish advocates gender equality in his books and hence his Sita is not the typical all enduring, servitude type woman. Instead, she has a will and opinion of her own, which is one of the reasons Ram falls in love with her. He bows his head to her with respect and admiration.
Their union is much of completion of each other - unlike a usual marriage where the husband is the master and supreme power, and the wife is nothing but his glorified servant catering to his needs. One is not entirely surprised by this treatment because it was seen in the Shiva trilogy too where Parvati was portrayed as an independent person.   
Although the author tries to reveal the underlying layers of the society and the characters, most of the time he comes up with a justification why things are the way they are – or at least that’s what I felt.
This was a quick read because many of the passages were sort of repetition from the first book – the story being told in a linear narrative from the point of view of the three main characters, Ram, Sita, and Ravana.
The constant reference to Vayuputras and Malayaputras gets a bit too tedious – I don’t know why the author needed to explain who are they now and then. Likewise, the presentation of some of the central characters (as well as the absence of a few) like Hanuman, Jatayu, is so entirely different from the original that the reader is somewhat curious to see how their story develops.
I had trouble visualising the elaborate settings of the places described – the Mithila bee quarters, Agastsyakoodam mountain, etc being some of them.
Ravan – Amish
I could finish Sita a lot quicker than I expected – thanks to some extra reading during bedtime – and hence proceeded to the third book of the series. Ravan is usually portrayed as a villain and it is not easy to write about someone like him in a positive light.
Even so, it is not surprising to find that a troubled past led him to what he became in the future. Although the author wasn’t justifying or glorifying the protagonist, one couldn’t help thinking of numerous instances narrated in history where troubled childhood has been stated as a reason for someone turning into the beast they’ve become later in life.
The premise sounds common – a child walking out of his father’s home with the pain and grudge for the constant ill-treatment meted out to him by the parent. The only difference here could be that Ravan was forced to flee with his mom, newly born brother and uncle to save their lives.
Life was hard and although he loved his brother Kumbhakarna more than anything else in the world, Ravan was more of a loner all his life. There are parts of Ravan’s mind even Kumbhakarna couldn’t reach. The brothers shared a very strong bond and at times it felt like reading a modern TV series on two brothers because it is difficult to picture Ravan and Kumbhakarna as bosom buddies… however, Kumbha was to Ravan what Laxman was to Ram.
Having read the two books of the series, it was easy to guess where the story will lead to. The undisclosed love of Ravan towards Kanyakumari and how that urged him to be the best version of himself, how her death changed him and made him worse were all on the expected lines. Even the so-called suspense ceased to be – I could rightly guess the identity of Sita and Kanyakumari even before the author revealed it.   
As with the earlier books, the author seems to try to intertwine present with the past. The mention of Sabarimala and the traditions associated didn’t add any value to the plot, I felt. Why did the author feel compelled to use a burning topic of present times (this book was published recently, after the Sabarimala verdict and all the controversies around it) to the story of Ravan?
Of course the portrayal of Ravan, the protagonist was good as with the protagonists of other books. The reader feels for him when he suffers. Most of his actions could be justified too. However, the portrayal of Kumbakarna was more interesting and intriguing to me. The way he changes – from hero-worshipping his brother, to helping him achieve his greatness and then to try and put some sense in his mind when he chooses the wrong path – all these are layers of the character which I haven’t seen before. There is more to Kumbakarna than his usual portrayal as a giant that loves to eat and sleep all the time.
And yet, overall the book wasn’t that exciting to read. I found it tiring and boring to read the same passages for the third time (of the instances common to all three books). So, I am not waiting for the next book with bated breath. I still might read it if I happen to come across it. But, I am not too excited about it.
So, that’s the end of the week and I have already started reading Ivory Throne by Manu S Pillai and you can hear from me about it in the next blog. Since it is nonfiction, I am sure it will take me longer to finish. Yet I hope to finish it at the earliest and go on to read the next book.
Until then, enjoy your reading and share your thoughts too…

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