Saturday, January 30, 2016

Book Review: Ramayana - The Game of Life: Stolen Hope (Book – 3) by Shubha Vilas

Book review Ramayana
Book Review: Ramayana-The Game of Life
Book Details. . .

·         Title: Ramayana-The Game of Life: Stolen Hope (Book – 3)
·         Author: Shubha Vilas
·         Genre: Religion & Mythology
·         Publisher: Jaico Publishing House (2016)
·         ISBN-10: 8184958242 (ISBN-13: 9788184958249)
·         Pages: 312 Pages
·         Rating: 4/5

Behind The Book. . .

In the evil labyrinths of Dandakaranya forest, human values are put to test. Rama’s righteousness, Lakshmana’s loyalty, and Sita’s endurance reflect our own sense of values and judgment in difficult times. The story unfolds the facets of human life – the conflict and trickery, the praise, the slander and above all, the hope and the despair in the eventful forest life of exiled royals.

Stolen Hope is about extreme deception and extreme love. It is about arrogant power and deep devotion. With every twist and turn, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana find themselves robbed of whatever and whoever they valued the most.

Exploring the dynamics of human relations – between father and son, husband and wife, teacher and disciple – and the complex game of power and greed, Stolen Hope mirrors our own dilemmas in the modern world and teaches us how we must overcome them.

Seek courage when everything, including hope, is stolen.

Book Synopsis. . .

The Ramayana is one of the most pivotal and revered ancient scriptures in Hinduism depicting the journey of Lord Rama (personifying ‘virtues’) to annihilate the demon king Ravana (personifying ‘vices’). The holy and sacred text contains about 24000 shlokas (verses) embodying the rich values of cultures, moralities and philosophy of life. It is 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).

Stolen Hope is the third book in Ramayana series by Shubha Vilas narrating the sequences of ‘Aranya Kaand’ (Aranya means forest) of The Ramayana. The first two books of the series viz. ‘Rise of the Sun Prince’ and ‘Shattered Dreams’ depicted the ‘Bala Kaand’ and ‘Ayodhya Kaand’ of the sacred book. While I have read and reviewed the second book of the series, the first one remains in my ‘to be read’ list (have ordered and just received the copy of the first installment yesterday, hope to read and review it soon).

The Book 3 of the series ‘Stolen Hope’ starts where the Book 2 culminated with the furtherance of the trio (Rama, Lakshmana and Sita) in the forests and meeting with the revered saints and sages. It furthers dwells into the abduction of Sita by the demon king Ravana and the search Rama and Lakshmana initiates to locate Sita – the hope of His life.

The book starts with ‘Ravages of Rage’ which explores the trio first tryst with the demons in the forests of ‘Dandaka’. Despite the prevalent peace and tranquility in the atmosphere, the sages in the region reel under severe pressure and scare owing to emerging influence of demons in the region. Rama’s tender heart pains on seeing the plight of revered sages and He vows to annihilate the demons from the earth.

The next chapter ‘The Mountain Tamer’ depicts the stories of grace and glory of Sage Agastya revealing the truest gems of our rich mythology to the readers. Hearing his stories, the Rama, Lakshmana and Sita excitedly set out to meet the dignitary saint and seek his blessings. The sage bestows his blessings and grace on them and also confers boons and gifts to the princes. Basis his advice and guidance, they proceed to go to Panchavati.

‘Still water runs deep’ takes us to Panchavati where Lord Rama along with Lakshmana and Sita arrive to spend the last three years of the fourteen years exile. The beauty and serenity of the place, which is truly an abode of solace and tranquility cradled by the holy water of Godavari, grant immediate peace to their heart and soul. However, darkness awaits them as Surpanakha, the demoness, cast her evil eye on them. She makes a futile effort to becharm Rama and Lakshmana to satisfy her lust and eventually ends with her nose and ears cut by Lakshmana. The chapter, most poignantly, also dwells upon the lifestyle of Bharata living who is flogging himself in the form of self-abnegation as he considers himself responsible for Rama’s exile.

The injured Surpanakha, then, rushes to her cousins Khara and Dushana in ‘Fourteen Thousand Vices’ and induces them to fight with Rama and Lakshmana to take her revenge. The demons along-with trusted generals and fourteen thousand best of the army attacks the brothers only to be slained by the lone warrior Rama after a prolonged battle.

The chapter ‘Eighteen Curses’ details the past chronicles of Ravana (the demon king) and his deeds which earn him loads of curses. When Khara, Dushana and all of their generals are killed in the battle by Rama, the Surpanakha rushes to his brother (the demon king Ravana) and tempt him about the timeless beauty of Sita, persuading him to kidnap her.

In next chapter ‘A Reckless Request’, enamored by the spell of her majestic beauty cast by Surpanakha, the Ravana confronts Maaricha for help to hatch his evil plans to abduct Sita. Accordingly, Maaricha disguises himself as golden deer and befools Rama & Sita taking advantage of which Ravana kidnaps Sita.

But Ravana’s journey back to his kingdom is interrupted by Jatayu (the vulture). The seventh chapter ‘A Wounded Witness’ narrates the fierce battle between the two which ends with Jatayu tricked and wounded by the Ravana. Overcoming the vulture bird, the Ravana manages to take Sita to Lanka and try to lure her with the might of his wealth and position.

The last two chapters narrate the aftermath of Sita’s abduction on Rama and Lakshmana and the search they trigger to locate her. The penultimate chapter ‘Lakshmana Diary’ is written from Lakshmana’s point of view who recollects the events that lead to the abduction of Sita. His heart pains on seeing Rama losing control of himself in the agony of separation from Sita. As the brothers continue to search her whereabouts they encounter Shabri, who awaits their arrival since eternity. In last chapter ‘Selfless Servitude’ the brothers meets Shabri who greets them with enthusiasm and offers them choicest of the fruits and flowers. She also directs them to Kishkinda, the kingdom of vanaras (monkeys) where the monkey king would help them in their further search for mother Sita.

Why the forest of Dandakarnya is named so? What are the stories of Sage Agastya’s glory and might? What is the story behind the advent of river Kaveri? How did Rama brave Khara & Dushana and their army of fourteen thousand soldiers? What were those eighteen curses that decided Ravana’s future course of life? How did Ravana marry Mandodari and why do he hate monkey king Vali despite being friend with him?

Grab a copy of the book to unearth the answers to above and be a part of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita’s journey to forests.

My Thoughts. . .

I always strongly believe that retelling of our rich mythological texts is very important, for the pearls of wisdom they hold are pivotal to imbibe virtues and develop a value system in the society. Thus, all the genuine efforts (be it in the form of print or electronic media) in this directions should be encouraged and applauded.

Shubha Vilas series on Ramayana is one such honest attempt which is aptly termed as ‘The Game of Life’ as it presents to the reader the glorious story of Rama’s journey enriched in teachings and lessons for an ideal life. This is surely a commendable attempt by the author to present the Ramayana to the readers in the form which principally draws the inference from Valmiki Ramayana and also incorporates the flavors from Kamba Ramayana and Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas. Besides just narrating the story and events of the Ramayana as is, the author also presents the incidental narrations and anecdotes of the characters which are (perhaps) not presented in the original Ramayana. These add to the overall charm of reading in addition to increasing the knowledge base about the tales behind the text and its characters. The depth in the literature only reflects the grand research which has gone into the book.

Continuing the traditions of the earlier books in the series, the author gives various snippets of management lessons, ideal behavior and analysis of various events or acts in the story by way explanation in the text boxes at various junctures in the book; these prove immensely helpful in connecting with the characters and the manner in which they act.

The famous ‘footnotes’ also make their way into the present installment too, offering exactly the similar nuggets of wisdom as they did earlier. Some of these footnotes truly offer gems to understand analyze and enrich human behavior. Consider some of the notes re-produced below to grasp what I mean (and remember these are in abundance in each chapter of the book). . .
  • Nectarine honey is a gift of the flowers to the honeybees in return for their service of cross pollination. Perhaps because honey is a product of such a self-less reciprocation, it is the only item that never becomes spoilt. In giving life and hope, one undoubtedly received nectar.
  • In expecting big chunks of happiness at one shot, we forget to relish the little packets of opportunities that come in regularly.
  • When you place clarification before action, you are placing a relationship before opinion. When you place action before clarification, you are placing judgment before an opportunity.
  • Difficulties are nature’s speed breakers that prevent us from driving too fast in life to be able to gratefully appreciate the beauty it has to offer.
  • Words cause mental wounds that don’t heal with time with heal with timely love.
  • Repentance is the younger sister of acceptance. Only when you accept your mistake does the sincere repentance follow.

There would (perhaps) be none who wouldn’t be aware about the story of Ramayana still the book unearth various facts which are still unknown to most like the deterrence of Rama in killing someone in front of Sita or the suffering & self- ordeal subjected by Bharata to himself during Rama’s exile or the origin of the Tamil language or struggle to attain maximum height between Vindhya and Meru mountain or even the little snippets like birth of Sitaphal or why the squirrels don’t get hurt even after falling from a great height etc.

A special word of appreciation to the author for the manner in which he has developed each of the characters in the book. Nowhere it appears that Rama or Sita or even Ravana who are main characters of Ramayana are over-shadowing other smaller characters of the story. Even tinier characters like Maaricha or the sages in the forest get their due voice in the story. Even Lakshmana gets space to voice his emotions in the penultimate chapter of the book wherein he shares his thoughts on Sita’s abduction and Rama’s outburst at him. The command on the language assumes great importance especially in the re-telling of mythological text. The craft is beautiful and poetic. Some of the most beautiful and poignant junctures of the book include Bharata’s suffering in the absence of Rama, Rama’s lament for Sita, their moments of togetherness in the forests, the selfless service of Lakshmana to his brother etc.

While the book details almost all the references it makes to external events in the story, there are some which remain unattended. Like the one which mentions about the sins which led to Shabri’s banishment from her clan or (again) the instance of Kartivirya Arjun taming Ravana . . . little background and insights on these would have further proved enriching.

The cover page of the book shows Lakshmana pointing arrow at Jatayu, the vulture demigod with the forest background. The title of the book ‘The Stolen Hope’, depicts the stealing of Sita who is Rama’s beacon of hope. Special mention about the printing, font and word spacing of the book, which has been meticulously done by the publishing house to grant reader a comfortable read.

The Final Word. . .

‘Stolen Hope’ further takes the legacy of Ramayana series by Shubha Vilas to another level only to raise the hopes and expectations from the remaining three parts. Meticulously researched, wonderfully crafted and skillfully presented, it remains a must read for all even if one haven’t read the earlier two parts. In words of the author himself, “If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, it doesn’t matter. When you bite into a cake, it hardly matters where you begin. But in order to help the readers get familiar with the story, there is a summary of both the books.”

The Ramayana 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. Grab your copy and take your chance to unearth some of the pearls from the ocean of pearls called Ramayana.

Rating: 4/5

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

Five Favorite Quotes. . .

1.     By constantly pouring ingredients into the fire, they persistently reminded themselves that their life was to give and not to take & that in giving they would receive grace.
2.   It would have been easiest for her to take side-steps and avoid these lacerating stones & thorns and instead carefully walk on Rama’s cushion like footprints. But the discomfort of disrespecting HIS footsteps was far worse than the pain from foot punctures along the way. Following her footsteps Lakshmana carefully side stepped both Rama’s and Sita’s footsteps.
3.      Don’t give me independence. Giving me choice is an indication that you want me to become independent of You. And saying that spot should also please me suggest that my pleasure is independent of yours. Even if I am to serve You for 100 years, I would not want any independence. I exit because I depend on You. My happiness lies solely in making You happy. Just as there is no sunshine without sun, no fragrance without flowers and no self without the supreme one, there is no Lakshmana without Rama.
4.    Don’t carry a venomous snake casually in your cloth. You will be bitten and so will your lust. Don’t carry more weight than you can handle. You will be crushed, so will your pride. Don’t test the strength of your teeth by hitting it with stone. You will be broken and so will your ego. Don’t behave like a fish that’s taken the bait and still thinking of escape. You will be ripped ad so will be your desires.
5.     She lived to serve her guru and the left to serve her guru. Most people use their gurus as a mean to achieve god, but here was someone who served god as a means to achieve her Guru.

About the Author. . .

Shubha Vilas is a spiritual seeker, motivational speaker and author of ‘Ramayana – The Game Of Life’ a 6 book series and India’s first self-help book series based on the story of Ramayana. Academically, he is B.E in Electronics and Telecommunications and L.L.B Specializing in Intellectual Property Law (Patent Law). He helps people in dealing with modern-day life situations through the teachings of the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, ‘Ramayana’ and other dharmic traditions. He conducts leadership seminars in premier institutes across the world and inspires deeper human values.

Where to grab a copy. . .

Please click here to buy the book from Amazon

Please click here to buy the book from Flipkart

~ Shubh Life . . . OM Sai Ram 

© 2016 Manish Purohit (Reserved)

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