Monday, 5 September 2016

The Girl Who Chose by Devdutt Pattanaik: a review

We all have grown up listening to the story of Ramayana and even today when we are given the story of Indian mythology, we end up going back to our childhood and listening to all of them with as much eagerness as we did back then. What I feel glad about is in today’s time we have authors like Devdutt Pattanaik who strive to present a more interesting take on the mythology for people of all ages. His latest offering “The Girl Who Chose” is an illustrative version of the Ramayana. How could I just not read it?

According to the blurb- ‘You are bound by rules, but not I. I am free to choose.’ Two thousand years ago, the poet-sage Valmiki wrote the Ramayana. It is the tale of Ram, the sun-prince of Ayodhya, who is obliged to follow family rules and makes no choices. And of Ravana, king of Lanka, who does not respect anybody’s rules or other people’s choices. Over the centuries, hundreds have retold the tale, in different languages, adding new twists and turns. But few have noticed that the tale always depends on the five choices made by Sita. What were Sita’s five choices? India’s favourite mythologist brings to you this charmingly illustrated retelling of the Ramayana that is sure to empower and entertain a new generation of readers.

The moment I received the book (and I am not exaggerating!) I had a smile on my face. It wasn’t just a smile, it was a huge grin. The illustration of “Sita” and the fonts used for the title of the book is something that made me go back to my childhood. Since the author has himself made the illustrations, I couldn’t have been happier. Kudos to the author for doing so! As I always do with every book I receive, I flipped through the pages and immediately got drawn to the illustrations that are made there. This book is written in such a way that you are easily able to relive the epic story through the illustrations that are done in the book.

I would be true here, currently I am having a lot of pressure at work and everything is going as per schedule but when I was flipping through the pages, I ended up reading the whole book at one go. A very quick read, I finished it in almost 1 hour and here I am, writing what I felt about the book. The favourite mythologist of today’s time retells the epic Ramayana in such a way that you feel like this is the best way through which you would be able to tell your children or younger siblings who are new to Indian mythology, about the story.

We had grandparents who used to tell us tell-tale stories about these epics and we would always want our children to know those stories so why not find a good way for them to read it? The illustrations of the book actually made me feel like bringing up my crayons and then colouring them. Just imagine that if I felt to do it then what would the children feel when they are given the book? Oh by the way, now that I have finished reading it, my mother is reading it too!

Now, coming to the way the story has been written. When we speak about the retelling of the Ramayana, we somehow do not think about it being told from Sita’s perspective but to think of it, why not? The author has answered that very question and has narrated the epic through the perspective of the girl who chose. It is not many of us who notice that the story was basically woven around the five choices made by Sita. If those choices weren’t what they were, probably we wouldn’t have had the story the way it has been told.

Along with the five choices made by Sita, the author also enlightens us about the minute details of the Ramayana which we usually tend to overlook. A smooth read, the book comes with a very strong message. The choices that we make, the fact that we all have a Sita within us make or break us. We always have a choice and we should be aware of the fact that every choice of ours has consequences which we should accept with grace. For the cons of the book, there weren’t any or rather, I couldn’t find any. The conclusive moral of the book made me forget about everything else and I could only get lost in the book. Surely a must read and a much recommended book for people who love to read mythology. I will surely be looking forward to reading more books from the author in the future. For me, the book was 5 out of 5. I would end it with the dedication and opening lines of the book-

For those who choose.

“Within infinite myths lies an eternal truth
Who knows it all?
Varuna has but a thousand eyes
Indra, a hundred
You and I, only two.”

PS- This book has been sent to Vanya’s Notebook from the Flipkart Blogger Book Review Program.

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