For many of us, Sita brings to mind the insipid character in the old TV series Ramayana. The Ramanand Sagar version. A more vapid Sita could not have existed. But Amish Tripathi’s Sita is anything but weak.
I have been resisting Indian authors for the longest time. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Palace of Illusions and Devdutt Patnaik’s Jaya did precious little to alter my tastes. Call me snooty and rub my nose in it!
This is one book, I must confess, I judged by the cover. I mean look at those ripped muscles, the ankle bracelets, the flying fish tail and let’s not forget the janeu (Poonal/sacred thread)! Isn’t that thread to be worn by men? I was not only intrigued by the picture but also by Shekhar Kapur’s line, “Amish is India’s first literary popstar”.
I haven’t read the Scion of Ikshavaku and even though this is the second book in the series, I could still relate to it. This is unlike any Ramayana I have read so far. Kudos to Amish Tripathi for creating a Mithila and a Mumbadevi so unique and unlike anything I had pictured. I also loved the character of Sunaina, Sita’s mom who ruled Mithila while Janak was the titular ruler. The narrative is gripping and I am glad I picked it up on a holiday so I could finish it at one go. Sita and Vishwamitra’s conversation on the caste system is interesting. But, why does she question her guru’s wisdom in choosing her over Ram? For what I can’t say because we don’t want to spoilers here. This is the part where I feel that because women are not raised to feel confident in their own capabilities that they have this self-doubt. And Amish is only picking up on that social conditioning when he portrays her as someone who would rather share credit than own it. Reminds one of the speeches that women CEOs and head honchos make when they win awards, where they credit everyone, from hubby to in-laws, but themselves.
So is Sita a feminist? Well, this is not even up for debate. Aren’t we all? I mean who in their right mind would not stand for equality? Having said that, she deals with patriarchy just as we all do. But, it is not something that wears her down. It is great how she takes up the reins of her kingdom, but like any other bhartiya naari drops it to follow her hubby. Here the reason is not your typical pativrata-panti apparently, it is for the greater good of India and also part of her destiny to do something more than just handle a small kingdom. I don’t know whether it is better to be someone’s sidekick in a big kingdom or be the absolute ruler in a smaller one. Like a startup CEO Vs. blue chip company CEO debate.
The only wrinkle in an otherwise gripping narrative was the “Yash Johar movie” like scene where Sita goes all coy on the reader! Romance from woman’s point of view seems tough for a man to get I guess. Rama and Sita’s romance is kind of typical in that sense. The woman adoring her man and considering him heroic. I am not too sure about what he has done to receive that hero worship. Yes, the book does offer a few clues. The scene where Ram jhuko-fies his head ala Shahrukh in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, where the mard ka sir only 3 women ke saamne jhukta hai is totally filmy and romantic according to Sita. I am not dissing a warrior’s need for romance, just wondering why the bar is set so low. But for the rest of it, this is a Sita I can get on board with. I like the way she thinks so far. I hope the next book doesn’t disappoint.