Book Review: Ramayana - The Game of Life, Shattered Dream - Subha Vilas


It seems all I read these days is some reinterpretation of the Indian epics. Now before I start this review, let me clarify the I haven't really been a fan of this particular story. While I find the Mahabharata to be an interesting story of power play, I haven't really been able to digest the "righteous" behaviour that we are supposed to emulate as told in this tale. I’ve tried at times and failed, and maybe this is the reason why I try to find the meaning that eludes me in these modern retellings of the epics.

The Game of Life: Shattered Dreams, is the second book in this re-telling of the Ramayana. It starts with the turmoil that King Dasratha faces in deciding who should succeed him. A little feature that I haven’t seen in other retellings, is the author’s inclusion of footnotes. These are all marked with the author’s unique way of telling us the meaning of the scene playing out in the book. I like how the author uses various analogies to express the reasoning in a clearer way.

The Ramayana a story that has been told a million times, by a million people. What is so different about this book? Well, to be honest, not much. Yes, it is quite simple to understand the story as the language is simple, lucid and quick to grasp. I can imagine a school going child reading it and not really struggling with this book. The use of notes to elucidate the principles put forth by Lord Rama are indeed helpful and give an interesting prespective into the teachings that are present in the original story. I won’t waste your time, going over the storyline as I’m quite sure almost everyone in India is aware of it. Indeed, I don’t think many people in the current working class haven’t seen the classic Ramayana series on the television at some point in their childhood.

The book talks about how one person’s (Manthara) poisonous wishes cause an empire to devolve into turmoil. There is one chapter dedicated to Ravana and his exploits and no doubt, this is the author’s way of giving a little peek into things to come in the next book. There are times in the book, when the protagonist (Rama) gives advice and then this is highlighted in simple numbered rules. While I’m sure many people not only preach and uphold the perfect son and perfect human nature of Rama, even after reading this interpretation I cannot seem to accept it.

At the cost of sounding like an atheist, I have always questioned the principles behind the dharma expressed in Ramayana. In this book, the title Shattered dreams is used to represent the shattered dreams of a nation, of the citizens of Ayodhya as a whole. Yes, I understand that dharma is of utmost importance but is it really worth the suffering of millions? That Rama’s brother rules in his place in a peaceful way and respects him enough to place his footwear on the throne doesn’t justify my meaning of suffering but I still can’t seem to digest the way it unfolds. Honestly, I have much more respect for Bharata who decides to go ahead to right the wrong done during his absence. Rama would (and I hope you forgive me for saying this) almost seem to be a little selfish in his pursuit to adhere to dharma. Well, the book tries to demystify these very questions and while I still wasn’t completely convinced, maybe another reader will be.

Personally, I didn’t find this retelling to be the most perfect one, but it is a good try at trying to bring the age old epic to the masses. It does get preachy at times, and for a reader like me, who doesn’t like any book that tries to teach me things (unless its educational books, then I could probably read them all day) it wasn’t very satisfying. The book ends with the trio getting ready for a new adventure (the story of the abduction and the events after that) as they journey towards their “destiny” after having convinced the people of Ayodhya and their family that their’s is a righteous path. I’d suggest you steer clear of this book if you dislike books that preach you ideals to follow. However, if you’re looking for a simple, clean, new age interpretation of the story, this is the book for you.

Name: Ramayana: The Game of Life – Shattered dreams
Author: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico
My Rating: 2.5/5

I'm unable to find a link to buy it online at the moment, so I shall update it once I find it. 
Here's the link to the first book in the series though! 

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