I'd been thinking of reading a Devdutt Pattanaik book for a quite a long time now especially after finishing all from "Amish Tripathi" and "Ashwin Sanghi" two of his major competitors from this part of the world. What beter book to pick than the retelling of Epic Ramayan. I am sure almost all of us must have read "Ramayan" in one form or other and some of us (like me) would have read multiple versions of the same story but as much or I can say as many writers version we read - it just keeps getting better. But the one that Devdutt Pattanaik has written (not exactly) from the point of view of Sita is simply outstanding and mind-blowing to say the least. The kind of research which is very much visible from the book and the kind of pains he must have taken to gather the data is pretty much visible in the way he has narrated the done to dust story. I would say the best of to describe this work of mythological fiction is to say that this one book is way way better than all the books put together from Amish and Ashwin. Also, another reason for my picking this one up now is that "Amish's" second book from Ramayan trilogy is about to come out this month end and that happens to be another version of "Sita's" story, I just couldn't time it any better. Today only I pre-ordered it and hopefully will be a part of my collection as soon as it releases and I will get back right here to tell you how good it is - if it is any good.
As I said earlier that the story of Lord Ram and Sita "The Ramayan" keeps getting better with every new version hence this one too is no exception. Unfortunately I had no idea as what he meant by "Illustrated Retelling" hence I just picked up the book and was shocked to read the very first few pages that it was indeed a page of story followed by the "Illustrations" (Drawings of the happenings and characters) further followed by the references that he has put in as what all other authentic versions of Ramayan say about the happenings. I thought it will be one of few examples he is going to quote and found it sheer disturbance of sorts and diversions from the story. But as I kept going forward - I kindda started liking the idea and after initial 50 odd pages I actually started loving it as it was like the proper analysis of the story, its origin, references and even how it all was debatable then and now too. WOW!! Kudos to his efforts and the way he has done it all in 400 pages is seriously applaud worthy. I have no doubts in saying that I found this version to be one of the very best and I plan to gift a "Paperback" version to my parents to gauge their reaction on the research, analysis and story too.
Indian Epics especially when we talk about "Ramayan" and "Mahabharat", words likes exaggeration and fictionalized accounts etc shouldn't be minded at all. I mean in this one too there were so many instances that I found completely hilarious and overshot that I just can't mention them here spoiling the fun for those who plan to read this. But some I've got to mention like we all know that "Ravan" had ten heads - but having 20 arms is beyond me. Imagine Lord Ram's dilemma when he fought with the Rakshas King "The Triloki" Ravan with ten heads and twenty arms with each one of them having a different instrument to beat him. Unbelievably hilarious, I had a roaring good time visualizing the scene. Also the much debatable reference of Sita being related to Ravan in the first place that he discards and later pays the price of his karma. I didn't expect anything new from this "Retelling" but it turned out to be an eye opener for me as I was shocked to realize that my own knowledge of the epic is nowhere close to the one that I had in my hands. Simply Superb. Also it was very well able to invoke all those emotions in (the Atheist) me that I seriously couldn't not bow to the supreme "Maryada Purushottam Ram" and his deeds. Incredible is the story of Lord Ram and his beloved Sita who had to face so much in those fourteen years of struggle in jungle followed by another fourteen after they meet and separate followed by the tragic finale.
To my expectations as well as surprise he actually took the story to the proper end and was able to satisfy my soul with all the answers that I was looking for in the book as how it all ends and what is the new beginning. As I said earlier that this is one epic which we all have loved so much right from the day we are born and we've been told so many stories from the epic that I can just go on and on with this review. All I would say in the end is that - it is indeed a terrific attempt and a must must read for all Indian Mythological fans. If you have read it - do let me know how you like it and if you haven't - I will say its high time that you get your copy and give it a quick read.
Also, the end of this book very well guides me as to what to pick as my next read :).