March 2014 By Satish Purohit RAMAYANA, THE GAME OF LIFE – Book-1: The Rise of the Sun Prince, Author: Shubha Vilas, Published By: Jaico, Pages : 252 , Price : INR 250 For as long as mountains and rivers flourish on Earth, the legend of Rama will flourish in this world. And for as long as the Ramayana flourishes, the world will know and celebrate you along with the Ramayana,” declares Lord Brahma to Valmiki, the chronicler of Rama’s tale. These lines in English translated from the original by Shubha Vilas in his first book in an ongoing series ring true through the procession of centuries. Times change, and so do people and societies. However, the lessons of the Ramayana remain eternally relevant. Several versions of the Ramayana exist and many of them depart substantially from Valmiki’s story. However, true to Brahma’s boon, the story of Lord Rama and Maharishi Valmiki’s composition continue to hold sway over imaginative minds and adoring hearts in India and beyond. Allama Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan, has famously said: “Hai Ram kay wajood pe Hindustan ko naaz/ Ahle-nazar samajtay hain ussko Imam-e-Hind.” Translated: “India is proud that Ram existed among them. People of discerning vision recognise him as the spiritual guide of the land.” Lord Rama, his achievements, his adherence to dharma, and the ideals embodied in his person have been held in high regard in several societies outside India for ages. Versions notwithstanding, Vilas’s narration succeeds in taking the reader down the pathways taken in the journey of Rama yet again. He does this by summoning some of the musicality of the original work, and retaining its epic tone through his use of hyperbole and gilded similes that retain Sanskritic flavour. He employs expressions like ‘sonic archery’ for arrows aimed at sounds in the bushes, and ‘firewall’ for a wall that fortifies against attacks, which gives his writing a sparse sci-fi leavening. The only mild disruption in the flow of the story comes from the little boxes of advice or insight that pop up occasionally through the book to offer some takeaway from the narrative. Vilas’s retelling is a beautiful piece of contemporary storytelling. It deserves to be read for its wealth of detail, and also for its folksy by-the-fireside narration.
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