Thursday, February 05, 2015

Book Review: RAMAYANA: THE GAME OF LIFE - Book 2 (SHATTERED DREAMS) by Shubha Vilas

Book Details. . .

·         Title: Ramayana: The Game Of Life - Book 2 (Shattered Dreams)
·         Author: Shubha Vilas
·         Genre: Mythology
·         Publisher: Jaico Publishing House (2015)
·         Pages: 404 Pages
·         Rating: 4/5

Behind The Book. . .

Shattered Dreams is the sequel to the national bestseller, Rise of the Sun Prince, in the new spiritual and motivational series Ramayana - The Game of Life. Twelve joyful years have passed in Ayodhya since the wedding of Rama and Sita at the end of Book 1.

Now, in Shattered Dreams, Shubha Vilas narrates the riveting drama of Rama’s exile. Through tales of Rama’s unwavering and enigmatic persona, the book teaches us how to handle reversals positively; through Bharata’s actions, it teaches us to handle temptation; and through Sita’s courage, to explore beyond our comfort zone. This complicated family drama provides deep insights on how human relationships work and how they fail.

With Valmiki’s Ramayana as its guiding light, Shattered Dreams deftly entwines poetic beauty from the Kamba Ramayana and Ramacharitramanas, as well as folk philosophy from the Loka Pramana tales, to demonstrate how the ancient epic holds immediate relevance to modern life. Experience the ancient saga of the Ramayana like never before.

Book Synopsis. . .

The Ramayana is one of the two greatest Hindu epic (the other being the Mahabharata) which is highly revered by Hindus owing to its mythological relevance and the rich message it gives. The Ramayana is a compound of two words – ‘Rama’ referring to Lord Rama & ‘Ayana’ meaning going, advancing or journey; it narrates the journey of virtue to annihilate vice. The holy text has about 24000 shlokas (verses) divided into seven kaands (chapters) viz. Bala Kaand, Ayodhya Kaand, Aranya Kaand, Kishkindha Kaand, Sundara Kaand, Yuddha Kaand and Uttara Kaand (these kaands are as per the original Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki; The Ramcharitmanas written by Tulsidas has sixth Kaand named as Lanka Kaand as against Yuddha Kaand named by Sage Valmiki).

Shattered Dreams is the second book in the Ramayana series by Shubha Vilas which depicts and narrates the sequences of Ayodhya Kaand of the Holy Ramayana (the first being ‘Rise of the Sun Prince’ depicting Bala Kaand). It starts with King Dasaratha’s decision to coronate Rama as the King of Ayodhya and ends with Rama’s exile into the forests. The book beautifully depicts the events as they fold series by series and is divided into nine chapters.

The first chapter ‘In Hope and In Despair’ reveals King Dasaratha reeling under the curb of some unknown fear and delusions reflecting some ill omens trying to cast a curse on him and his people of Ayodhya. It narrates the announcement of Rama’s coronation as a successor to Dasaratha with the ministers rejoicing on the fate of Ayodhya for getting Rama as its king.

The second chapter ‘The Ego Maniac’ takes the reader to Lanka, the land of Dasagriva (the Ravana). It explicitly details the emergence of Ravana as the King of Lanka and various key junctures of his life which had an impact on his stature as Ravana, the King of Lanka. These include instances like his fight with his half-brother Kuber, his tryst with Lord Shiva on Kailash Mountain, conquering nav-grahas etc.

‘Boons become Curses’ takes us back from Lanka to Ayodhya which is submersed in joy and merriment on the eve of Rama’s coronation, unaware of what the destiny has in store ahead. The joy and merriment is pervasive even inside the royal palace too with all the queens rejoicing the moment until the mood start shifting with Manthra (the royal maid) instigating queen Keikeyi influencing her mind and compelling her to ask for the redemption of her two due boons from King Dasaratha – the act which leaves King fragile, lifeless and weak.

The book after chapter three takes a poignant turn with each of the character waging a battle inside for the sake of others. The chapter four of the book, ‘Accepting Difficulty with Dignity’ depicts the struggle, within and outside, of the characters – Dasaratha, Lakshmana and Kaushalya (Rama’s Mother). As destiny plays its game and Queen Keikeyi breaks the news to Rama regarding his exile, the whole scenario changes and the royal palace sinks into the ocean of despair.

While the fourth chapter ends with Rama convincing his mother to let him go to forests as per the boon given by his father, the next chapter ‘Ayodhya Parts with Life’ starts with Rama trying to convince Sita to stay back in Ayodhya. What follows is the beautiful narrative description wherein Sita convinces Rama that in his absence the royal palace would be akin to desolate forests and with his presence the dark forests would turn into a soothing abode. It culminates with the final departure of Rama with Sita and brother Lakshmana from Ayodhya.

The sixth chapter ‘A Forest Weeps’ is one of the beautifully written chapter which tenderly depicts Lakshmana’s parting motion with his mother Sumitra and wife Urmila. It further traces the trail of the trio as they proceed from Ayodhya to Chitrakoot and ends with the demise of Dasaratha’s from the grief of his son’s separation.

The ‘Test of Intentions’ explores Bharata’s personality in detail and narrates his reaction to the whole scheme of events. It reveals various contours of his impeccable personality and the way he projects himself as the instrument of Rama whenever someone tries to adjudge his action and intentions. The harshness and adversity to which he indulges himself just because his elder brother is undergoing the same truly moves the reader.

The penultimate chapter ‘When Losing is Winning’ explores the moments of reunion of Bharata with his brother and his attempt to persuade Rama to return back. The passionate dialogue between the brothers and also the people of Ayodhya with each one justifying his stand for other’s happiness makes this chapter a wonderful read. The final chapter ‘Power of the Powerless’ explores furtherance of the trio in the forest and meeting with revered saints and sages.

How did King Nemi & Dasagriva got the name Dasaratha & Ravana respectively? How did Meghanaad, the Ravana’s son attain the status of being invincible? How those two boons that changed Ayodhya’s destiny accrued to Keikeyi? How Manthra managed to poison the mind of the queen who loved Rama more than her own son? How did Bharata react to the whole episode of his brother exile? Did Bharata and the people of Ayodhya manage to persuade Rama to return to Ayodhya?

Grab a copy of the book to unearth the answers to above and to be a part of Lord Rama’s exile and journey to the forest.

My Thoughts. . .

The mythological text assumes greater significance especially in current context when the people are drifting away from these. While earlier, there was enough knowledge sharing regarding these amidst the people, thanks to some popular TV serials epitomizing the virtues and wisdom thereof enabling them to reach the wider section of the people. And not to forget, those stories from grandparents which narrated tits and bits of these to the child, ensuring that these values and virtues of these timeless classics are inculcated into every child right from the beginning.

Shubha Vilas series on Ramayana is actually a magnificent effort by the author in an attempt to let these holy text permeates through the current generation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get hold of the first book of the series but going by what this second installment delivered, I am sure the first one too would be an experience to garner.

The task of retelling mythology is indeed a daunting one as it needs tremendous research of the subject before actually writing the same. Further, it offers miniscule chance of error or liberty to the author lest the whole work would go for a toss. Shattered dream is a perfect example of how the mythological text should be retold. A thorough research has gone into writing the book which chiefly includes Valmiki Ramayana, Tulsidas Ramacharitramanas and Kamba Ramayana amongst others. Each and every event & narration is backed by sufficient insight into the history and background of the event and characters. The efficacy and fluency with which the whole book is developed series by series, scene by scene giving even the minutest detail helps the reader to visualize the panorama of events happening at Ayodhya. The language and description is poignant and beautiful stirring the emotional quotient of the reader like the conversation of Rama with Lakshmana and Bharata, the Dasaratha’s turmoil and agony, Lakshmana’s retrospection thinking about his mother and wife etc.

One of the best part of the book is the way the author has developed each character of the book. Almost all the characters have been skillfully woven giving due space for their evolution. For instance, the story of Urmila and Lakshmana has been dealt with such finesse that the reader actually can feel the love and pain of the couple. It is worthwhile to mention many scriptures don’t have much detail about Urmila which further shows that the author has researched the subject well enough before conceiving the same on the paper.

The book’s uniqueness lies not only in the characterization or the research that has gone into it but also in the footnotes which are present at almost all the pages giving further insight into the symbolism conveyed at various places and also providing wisdom thoughts to the readers in context with the scene in question. Within the book too, various snippets like principles of ideal leadership, ideal behavior, solutions to address obstacles etc. are given in boxes at relevant places. Almost all the nuggets given in the footnotes have personality enriching value adding to the overall pleasure of the reading. These also make it a text to be preserved and revisited again to gain more. For instance, consider the following few nuggets given as the footnotes:

-          “How long one can go on with smiling faces and crying heart. Either till the smile of the face goes to the heart or the cry of the heart reached the face.”
-          “An angry person is like the flower vase that falls on someone’s foot, there is no doubt that it hurts the foot, nut it also breaks in the process. The damage to foot is reversible but the vase can’t be unbroken. Anger is seldom expressed without someone being hurt.”
-          “Gossip is like a cacophony of crows, where every crow seems to be saying the most important thing, but has neither the time nor the inclination to hear an equally important message from any of the other crows.”
-          “The teacher is like a tap and the student is an empty pot. For the pot to fill up, it has to sit below the tap. If the pot sits above the tap, it will remain dry even if the tap is running.”

I had an immensely wonderful experience while reading this one and the first installments now falls in my ‘to read’ list while looking forward to the upcoming ones. The biggest challenge in writing a series is to create an experience that holds readers’ attention leaving them asking for more; and Shattered Dreams does exactly the same.

While the overall language remains eloquent and immaculate throughout the book, at very few places I personally felt some scope for minor improvement at fewer places. For instance, at many places Rama or Laksmana were referring their step-mother by her name Keikayi which, according to me, didn’t gel well with the overall setting of the book. Further there were couple of instances where I felt a little more detailing (either by way of footnotes or otherwise) would have done wonders like the one where reference to Ahalya is made to be the cause of Indra’s humiliation or where the reference is made to Kartivirya Arjuna releasing and capturing Ravana. However, none of the above is material enough to have any grave impact on the blissful reading of the book.

The cover page of the book is nice with the picture of a sleeping prince in the front and battlefield in the back (probably) showing Dasaratha and Keikeyi. The printing, font and word spacing are decent enough to grant reader a comfortable read. The publishing house has done a commendable job in publishing the book in an apt manner to suit reader’s comfort.

The Final Word. . .

The Ramayana depicts the victory of good over the evil. It is an ocean brimmed with innumerable pearls of wisdom for every aspect and juncture of life. Every time you take a dip in the ocean, you are bestowed with one of the zillion pearls lying in its womb and the deeper you plunge, the more exquisite the pearl is. Shattered Dreams is one of the parts of that illimitable ocean which commands an exploration to unearth the treasure that lies within.

Pick this masterpiece and experience it slowly & steadily as it takes you to the era where family members still strives and struggles for each other happiness, where the value system still inculcate the virtue of righteousness and nobility, where idealism still remains a habit which is practiced and where the love soars much above the materialism of the world.

Do grab a copy and immerse yourself in this ocean to unearth those pearls of wisdom which are bound to light up your emotional and intelligent quotient to make yourself a better you.

Rating: 4/5

I thank the author for giving me the opportunity to review the book. A special thanks for the personalized message written on the face of the book which is highly appreciated.

Five Favorite Quotes. . .

1.      The contract was sealed with two smiling faces. Indrajit grinned with total conviction that he had successfully fooled Brahma, the most intelligent being of universe and Brahma beamed knowing that intelligent fools are the easiest to fool.
2.      Ravana’s black sins had taken shape as white hair on Dasaratha head, which urged him to act for the benefit of the world.
3.      At my father’s command, entering fire is like walking into a cool pond, consuming poison like licking honey and drowning in the sea like liberation. Mother, I promise you that I will abide by my father’s desire, even if it comes at the cost of self-destruction. The world knows me as eka-vachana, eka-patni and eka-bana.
4.      Tears began to stream down the eyes of the people as Rama passed them but they had no idea why they were crying. The atmosphere had equal measures of love and sorrow.
5.      Opportunity to serve superior come unsought to ones who yearn for them. Creating an atmosphere for another to serve in a focused manner is also service. I would love to accompany you to forest, but I will not. My joining in would invariably come in the way of your service to Rama. Your duty would be compromised because of my presence.

About the Author. . .

Shubha Vilas is a motivational speaker and a spiritual seeker. He helps top-level management in corporate firms through leadership seminars. He draws on the ancient spiritual texts like The Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana, to help individuals deal with contemporary dilemmas of life. He holds a degree in engineering in Electronics and Telecommunications and also a degree in law with specialization in Intellectual Property Law.

Where to grab a copy. . .

~ Shubh Life . . . OM Sai Ram 

© 2015 Manish Purohit (Reserved)

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