The book I had picked up this time was absolutely brilliant. It was so interesting that I had to keep aside all my work, my meals, my mobile as I wanted to read it all at one shot. And surprisingly, I was well familiar with the story. I knew the characters, I knew the plot, I knew the beginning and I knew the end.. still I was glued to this one. The book was based on one of the great Indian Epics – Ramanyana. Being brought up in a traditional Indian family, and in a school where Ramayana was part of syllabus, and also privileged enough to have TV at home (back then it was) when Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana was being telecast, I knew the entire story so well ( rather that was my notion before reading the book). Yet this book opened up a new world to me, and gave me so much food for thought!!
Off late I have developed deep interest for Indian Mythology, Culture, Traditions.. basically everything about Indian origin. The more and more I read about it, the more mesmerized I am. It reminds me of a kaleidoscope. The characters, the events and the stories are more or less fixed. As it happens in Kaleidoscope, the moment you turn the tube, a new design appears from the same set of pieces. Likewise here, the same story when looked at from a different character’s perspective, gives a different reflection, a different visualization of the same story. I guess, this would be true any other culture too. Hope I can get there in this lifetime. Am sure it would be great experience to be anthropologist.
Coming back to Ramayana, the protagonists are Ram and Sita (Incarnations of Lord Vishnu and Devi Lakshmi). To be honest, the moment I wrote the word protagonist, I wondered whether I am doing justice to the other characters, as each of them has a significant role. Be it Lakshman, Ravan, Kekayi, Bharat, Hanuman, Vibhisan, Sugrive, Urmila and the rest. Without them Ramayana is incomplete. (And there I get carried away from the main topic again.)
This time the story was presented from Urmila’s viewpoint. Who was she? Throughout the book she has been proclaimed by everyone as the strength, the pillar and the glue that bonded her family. In spite of this crucial role, she barely had any identity of her own. She has been always known as Sita’s Sister. And yes, that’s the title of the book too. Fantastic job done by the author Kavita Kane, right from naming the book to putting forward the personality of Urmila, who was always assumed as supporting and a side-lined character.
I haven’t read the original script of Ramayana. Whatever I have read or seen, were the creative works of author. It was their version, their perspective and understanding of the Epic. Was Urmila really like the one portrayed here? I don’t know. I surely liked this Urmila. Her persona was inspiring. Her confidence, intellect, standing-up against injustice, voicing her opinions firmly, intense love and care for her sisters.. actually everything about her was admirable. Apparently she was complete contrast to her sister, Sita.
The way author has described the feelings of a woman – in love, as a sister, as a daughter, as a wife who is separated from her husband for 14 years, as a daughter-in-law and as a woman.. actually gave me goose bumps. The maturity and understanding which she showed under the toughest circumstances made me feel how silly and immature I am when I crib at the smallest (and often insignificant) issues. Urmila’s another sister Mandavi, also went through the same suffering. But Mandavi was full of grudge, negativity and regrets, while Urmila chose to have hope, optimism and compassion instead. Hats off to Urmila.
Being a woman, I think, it was simply natural to understand and feel the emotions of Urmila and also her other sisters. The book is not about feminism. Rather I would say, it was a story of a female, by a female, and for male and female. Till date, I have read quite a handful of books on Indian Mythology. The ones written by Devdutt Patnaik, Ranjit Desai, and now Kavita Kane, have really helped to widen my perspective. Not only about Indian Mythology, but people and psychology in general.
Sita’s Sister is a must read recommendation from me.