After a long hiatus, I decided to pick up a book to review out here, and when I checked Blogadda, turned out they had Book 2 of yet another Ramayana series (Ramayana – The Game of Life, by Shubha Vilas) up for the grabs. I never read a sequel without having read the first part but I made an exception in this case, because 1. Ramayana, I mean if you were brought up in India, there’s no way you are not already well versed with this story 2. I did think I would read Book 1 but time and health did not allow me to. So I went ahead with this anyway.
Now, I have read Book 1 of Ashok Banker’s Ramayana series a long time ago, but it was so detailed, so long, that I did not dare to pick up book 2. I had the same worry with this one, especially when you know this is also going to be a 6 book series. But fortunately, it took me a day and a half to glide through this story telling. Never wavering from the plot you might have heard umpteen times in your childhood, the book retells the tale of truth, of honesty, of jealousy, of commitments, of respect. It starts with Dasaratha’s decision of Rama’s coronation as the king of Ayodhya, and ends with the beginning of Rama’s 14 year long exile.
So what is new in this version? Whenever a well known tale from the past is retold, I look forward to those little extra bits of information that surprise you, or the author’s own deductions of what would have actually happened (like Jaya, definitely my favorite rendition of Mahabharata). What was different in this case, were the foot notes, the little lessons one takes away from the epic, some insight into the actions each of the character takes in the story. What is good is these don’t form part of the narrative, ensuring that there is no break in the flow. Instead, they are mentioned as footnotes for reference, which the reader might choose to go through at his own convenience.
On the downside, some of these insights were way too philosophical, reminding me of self help books, something I am not personally very fond of. But that is a personal opinion. I chose to read this as mere information and insight into the characters in Ramayana, which was something I was looking forward to anyway. And in parts where I thought there was just too much gyan, I chose to skip it and move on with the story.
Overall, I think it is a very comfortable read, especially is someone were to ask for a Ramayana version recommendation, I would suggest this, based on this one part I read. Mainly because it sticks to the story we all know, and also because it is told so simply that you don’t have to go back to understand what it is trying to say. And also because it has just the right amount of detail one needs while reading an epic such as this.
So yes, do pick it up (start with the first though!) if you want to read Ramayana. And yes, I think I will be picking up the next part for myself.