Indian mythology is replete with stories; there are tales galore that are waiting to be told. Even when you think you have read a book and know it from cover to cover, there may be details that skipped your eye.
Our Indian epics – Mahabharata and Ramayana, with their voluminous takes on everything under the sky are not easy to master. Hence, with the new wave of writers trying to re-explore these centuries-old tales always fascinate me, and intrigue me.
And then there’s the problem of plenty – or should I say, too many? There’s a crowd out there – of writers and their own take on the epics. Some are good, some not worth the salt. To stand out in the clutter is a task that only experts can boast of. Amit Majumdar does just that in this book.
Sitayana stands out because of its simplicity. The story is not unknown, and the author does not intend to tread that path. It is the structure of the narrative and the use of language that sets this novel apart.
Sitayana tells the story of Ramayana from the perspectives of not only Sita but different other characters, from Hanuman to Mandodari, Lakshman and even the tiny squirrels. Although it is a refreshing change to hear the myriad voices in the epic, and how they would’ve viewed the events that occurred, it often came across as cluttered and break in the flow of the narrative.
Sita’s story begins in the Ashok Vatika, where she is imprisoned by Ravana. She is reminiscing her childhood when she lifted the might bow of Lord Shiva. The narrative fast moves to her Swayamvara. And suddenly we are introduced to Hanuman and Mandodari’s version of events.
For a book titled “Sitayana”, I was expecting Sita to be the ‘sutradhar’ for the entire story, which was not the case. While I did appreciate the hard work that went behind erecting this narrative from multiple perspectives, I fathom why Sita was denied the significance, she as the titular character deserved.
Apart from that disappointment, Amit Majmudar has not failed to impress the fan of Indian mythology in me. It is a herculean challenge to retell the story of Ramayana from the perspective of so many characters. And he has succeeded in his task. His creativity shows in the fact that the entire novel has the compression of a poem.
The biggest strength of the novel is in its language. Although simple, there are myriad little puns and references which are easy to miss. A careful reading, with care, would make even the mundane sentence appear magical. Therein lies the success of Amit Majmudar.
Sitayana, in the end, strikes a chord, not because it has a non-traditional world-view of a story well known, but because it captures the essence of Ramayana and places that before us without any pretence or rectitude.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
P.S. This review is part of the Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme
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