Book Review : Ramayana – The Game of Life, Shattered Dreams

I have already mentioned my rather rocky relationship with mythology. We just don’t get along and in general it is not a genre I gravitate to. Though I have to admit that I have a better grasp of Ramayana than the Mahabharata. For one the characters are fewer and the story wraps up in 14+ years.

Shattered Dreams is the second book in the Ramayana – The Game of Life series by Shubha Vilas. The book starts with Dasaratha’s decision to step down as the king of Ayodhya and pass on the reins of the kingdom to Rama. The book then goes on to describe the events leading to Rama, Sita and Lakshman leaving Ayodhya and heading to the forest. The book ends when Bharata returns back to Ayodhya with Rama’s footwear.

I am always sceptical about reading a known story. Well I know what happens at the end, even the twists and the turns and the thrill of reading to discover the unexpected sort of dies down. The same is true of Shattered Dreams. I knew where exactly the story was heading. I knew what to expect, it sort of brings down the excitement of trying to wrap up the book fast. But what I found interesting about Shattered Dreams is the insertion of small anecdotes (like how Dasaratha got his name) just mildly deviating from the main plot to keep the reader hooked. I also learned something new this way.

This book is not mytho-fiction so do not expect it. It is the story of Ramayana as told by Vilas. The author has drawn from various versions of the epic and condensed it into this book.

The story is told in 9 chapters with each chapter concentrating on one of the characters. I wasn’t very sure why Ravana had to enter the story so early on but I guess the author was getting the reader ready for Book 3 in the series.  I wasn’t a big fan of the boxed narratives/lists the author had added to emphasis certain portions of the narrative. It made the book feel very text-bookish. I had a hard time convincing myself to read those boxes. The boxes included many management strategies and lessons one can learn from Ramayana – very educational but at the same time making the book heavy. I skimmed through a lot of the boxes and struck to the main gist of the story.

What I liked about this book is the simple writing style Vilas has adopted. There are no confusing overlays or hidden symbolisms. The words tell the story without too many embellishments. It fits the narrative very well. At the same time, the author has taken quite some effort to bring in the poetic elegance one hears of the epics. I am too illiterate to understand and appreciate the beauty described in the original epics and Vilas tries to bridge the gap by adding rather poetic descriptions.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Indian Mythology and would like to read the Ramayana. It is also the kind of book, I would get my daughter to read when she is a bit older and wants to understand the Ramayana.

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