Saturday 7 June 2014

Kim's Review : Ramayana : The Game of Life - Rise of the Sun Prince

Shubha Vilas is the latest person to come out with a book, to capitalise on the current interest in mythology among Indians reading in English. "The Rise of the Sun Prince" is the first book in his series.

Shubha Vilas styles himself as a motivational speaker and a spiritual seeker and both these parts of his persona manifest themselves completely in his book.

He claims that his interpretation of the Ramayana is based on the Valmiki Ramayana and Kamban's Ramayana, And he incorporates a lot of teachings from his own spiritual gurus in the process. Hence this particular book reads more like a spiritual text than a mythological tale.

There are long foot notes on almost every page (sometimes taking up as much as half a page), that for my style of reading are extremely distracting. Reading Ashwin Sanghi's debut novel "The Rozabal Line" was lengthened considerably because of his myriad notes and annotations, but at least there, since they were at the back of the book, I could leave it until the end of the chapter. In this book I found myself constantly shifting between story line and foot notes on every page and for me that is a very irritating way to read. If you are the type who can ignore footnotes completely when reading a book, you will not mind it so much.

Footnotes include explanations like this "Kumba means pot and karna means ears, or the one whose ears were as gigantic as pots. If the ears are so huge how big would the body be. Ears represent the organ through which we acquire knowledge to destroy ignorance.Although Kumbakarna had such huge ears, the knowledge to help discriminate the right from the wrong never entered his ears. When right knowledge escapes the ears, garbage makes way into it. Kumbakarna was filled with rubbish, which is represented by his gigantic body"

Secondly, the story being told here, seemed more a condensation of selected portions of the Valmiki Ramayana than having any new thought, concept or idea behind it (other than spiritual lessons). And the Valmiki Ramayan is amongst my least favourites versions of the Ramayan for the parochial reinforcement that it has been used to justify along the ages and that has been further magnified in this version.

Also the spiritual interpretations were a bit too preachy for my taste. The concepts seemed sound, but the way they were put down on paper, did not appeal to me at all and in fact turned me off. For these reasons, I definitely will not be buying or reading the books that are yet to come in this series.

I do understand that this book will have an audience and it could be ideal for someone looking for a deeper understanding of the philosophy and thought behind the mythical tale of Rama. However, the style of this book was not to my taste at all

I definitely prefer the version written by Ashok Banker, "In Search of Sita" is an excellent anthology put together by Namita Gohale and Malashri Lal, Arshia Sattar has written a beautiful understanding of Rama in "Lost Loves: Exploring Rama's Anguish", Anand Neelakantan has turned the tale on its head in "Asura", even Samhita Arni's "Missing Queen" & "Sita's Ramayana" brought new thought to the table. In comparison to all these books, "Rise of the the Sun Prince" just did not measure up to them, for me.

Rating : 2 / 5

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