I grew up listening to the tales of Ramayana and Mahabharatha. On Sundays, I watched shows that were based on our ancient epics, on TV. I also watched my parents act the parts of Dasharatha and Keikeyi, Rama’s Father and step-mother, in a play based on Ramayana. Whenever I ran to my Grandma with one of my worries or adolescent issues, she sang verses from the epics that related to the problem at hand, explaining the story behind them and helping me solve my problems. I was relieved to learn that what I was going through at the time wasn’t something novel; The issues we face now in Kali Yuga were faced by people who lived millions of years ago, in Dwapara Yuga and Treta Yuga ( 3 of the 4 Yugas or era, according to Hindu philosophy) too. Books that hold stories of the kind of lives our ancestors led, the problems and dilemmas they faced and the measures they employed to overcome them ought to teach us a thing or two about life.
I love to read such books. I almost always reach out for books that teach me Life lessons and help me be a better person. But our ancient texts feel formidable: hard to read and harder to comprehend. They are in Sanskrit and in the form of verses, which can scare most commoners like me from ever reading them. Enter the translators/interpreters who convert the original works into forms accessible to the masses.
One such book is Ramayana- The Game of Life, by Shubha Vilas. It is a retelling of the epic, Ramayana, that was originally written by the sage, Valmiki. Usually such retelling entails really long, repetitive discourses by the interpretor on the greatness of God (For example, Bhagvad Gita – As It Is, by A. C. BhakthiVedantha Swami Prabhupada). I have reached out for such books now and then, but they have always left me bored and unable to read further than a few chapters.
The moment I began reading the Book 2 (Shattered Dreams), I somehow knew I’d be able to keep reading and finish it too. It is small (about 387 pages), the font-size and print is easier on the eye and apart from a few typos the English is unblemished and easy to follow. It was as if I just had to pick the book and flip it open to the page where I left off and the book just dragged me along on a ride. And what a ride it was! I was taken through a jubilant Ayodhya about to crown Rama as its King and into Keikeyi’s Kopa Griha (sulking room) where Dasharatha’s World is turned upside down by her demand to crown her son, Bharatha, as the King instead and to the picturesque Chitrakoot mountain, where celestial couples descend to the Earth for their Honeymoon and where now resides our hero, Rama, his wife, Sita, and his stepbrother, Lakshmana, as hermits. With every twist and turn I found myself gleeful, morose and in awe, my mood varying with the event I was reading about.
In the beginning, I was annoyed with the quotes at the footer. It felt like a work of fiction; While morals implied in a story is acceptable, lessons on life in the form of sayings or quotes at the foot of every page isn’t. I wanted to interpret the text in my own way and not blindly accept the writer’s interpretations. I decided to read them only when I felt like and skip the rest. That set me free. Gradually, I began appreciating such “ramblings”. It was better to have them there than in the middle of the story which would have interrupted my flow and made the reading tedious.
I took a lot of notes as I read this book. I copied passages that inspired or moved me. I pondered upon the lessons of following the words of my elders and wise men and women, helping others along my journey towards attaining perfection, staying humble, living with integrity and the fleeting nature of joys and sorrows. I found myself discussing the day’s reading with my husband on our morning walk the next day. Not often has a book touched me on so many levels as this one did. I’ll gladly read it again.
I’m already planning on reading the first book “Rise of the Sun Prince” and anxious to read the next one in the series which might contain the crux of Ramayana – The Kidnapping of Sita by Ravana. It breaks my heart to imagine the end to the peaceful stay of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana in the Forest as hermits and the loving couple being torn apart…. Still, I’m game.
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