Saturday morning, Madras filter coffee in one hand and The Hindu Book Review page on other hand. Seeing an image of “Ramayana” Sita being taken back into earth with two youngsters looking at this from the side, I stopped flipping of pages.
In most recitals of Ramayana the part of Lava, Kusa and Sita’s return from earth are generally not elaborated. So I always gets curious and interested to learn more on this episode in Ramayana. Reading the text that accompanied the image in The Hindu, I learned that title of the book was Sita’s Ascent and the author was Dr.Vayu Naidu. I added it to my Amazon wish list and that was last year May 4th. Now after a year from that I got hold of this book and finished reading it this week.
Picking the book I was greeted by a prelude which was Ramayana retold in brief. I was about to skip that part, when I noticed it was just 5 paragraphs (you can read it in Amazon’s look inside). I was impressed on the author’s ability to say Ramayana in just 380 words, so I continued with rest of the 170 pages.
We start our journey with Dr.Naidu to unpaved tracks in the forest leading to Sage Valmiki’s ashram, where we see a chariot with pregnant Sita being driven by Lakshmana. Sita recollects to Lakshmana about the first time she came here just before her marriage full of joy & happiness in her heart. The joy doesn’t last long, Sita gets abandoned in the ashram by Lakshmana under instructions from Rama. Lakshmana is heart broken and never returns to the capital. Valmiki tries to comfort her by saying I was born from darkness, yet after years of struggle I swam out of that darkness to finally seeing Rama & you in my head.
At this point of the book you will not be wrong expecting the story to continue. Instead you are led to retelling of portions of Ramaya from the viewpoint of Urmilla (Lakshmana’s wife and Sita’s sister), Rama, Mandodari, Soorpanakaa, Valmiki, Lakshmana and Hanuman. The author does this in style by presenting a fine portrayal of each character, humanizing them and making us literally touch and feel them. While I was enjoying these chapters, I was constantly disturbed by the thought the book is nearing its end and I am nowhere to reading about Sita – after all the book is titled after her and her ascent. In between these chapters, we briefly read about birth of Lava and creation of Kusa by Valmiki. All along you keep enjoying Dr.Naidu’s detailed characters, a skill honed over years of her theatre & radio drama experience in London.
Finally we are presented to the scene where Rama encounters a brave young boy who has seized his Ashwamedha yagna’s horse. It is none other than Lava who is seen answering Rama’s question on who are you by narrating his birth story. Rama comes near him with Sita turning to face the arrivals in front of the ashram. The book conspicuously ends with this.
Throughout the book the author presents us with a fine cocktail of mythology & fiction, while it lasted taste was good but when its over you are left with a hangover. I am off to get a fresh cup of steaming filter coffee!