Book review: Ramayana The Game of Life - Shattered Dreams

One of my earliest memories is of poring over a thick book, its cover worn out with the vigor of the reading sessions. My first ‘big’ book as a child was Valmiki’s Ramayana, translated into Assamese. I had forgotten most of the tales in the book till I picked up this book for review. 

Ramayana The Game of Life: Shattered Dreams is the sequel to the series being written by Shubh Vilas. The author is himself a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker while holding a degree in engineering and law with specialization in Patent Law. He also helps individuals deal with modern-life situations by applying the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana and other dharmic traditions. Taking support of Valmiki’s Ramayana as its guiding light, the author strives to entwine poetic beauty from the Kamba Ramayana and Ramacharitramanas, as well as folk philosophy from the Loka Pramana tales, to demonstrate how the ancient epic holds immediate relevance to modern life. 

I have not read the first part. Apparently, it had ended with Rama’s nuptials with Sita. The second book opens 12 years hence with Dasaratha’s ruminations as he prepares to proclaim Rama as the successor to the throne of Ayodhya. Flashbacks of his life show how he had turned from Nemi to Dasaratha and also how he had become indebted to his beautiful queen Keikeyi. 

The books details exquisitely the mental agony that runs through the ageing king as also his subjects when Dasaratha is forced to exile Ram, bowing down to the wish of his queen who in turn is affected by the wily Manthra. It also shows the undeterred path of honesty and loyalty followed by the Rama, Lakshmana and Sita towards their parents and each other as they remorselessly leave their material comforts for 14 years of harsh exiled life. 

On a parallel thread, the author brings into the picture how the arrogant Dasagriva was brought down to his knees by Lord Shiva, who was eventually taken in by the cruel king’s courage and sincerity, thus leading him to call him Ravana. The footnotes provide nuggets of wisdom, making you ponder over their relevance in present times.

Several interesting tales are related in the book during the course of Ram’s exiled life, right from the tale of King Yayati to the pristine life led by Anusuya and Shilavati. Each story is a riveting revelation of human nature, the temptations and constraints defining one’s chosen path. At one particular instance, I learnt that while Lakshmana served Rama by forgoing sleep for 14 years, his wife Urmila who had stayed back in Ayodhya served Lakshmana by sleeping for 14 years. Odd as it may sound, both focused on serving the one they loved and showed mental proximity unaffected by physical distance.

Finally, the book ends at the juncture where the trio bids goodbye to Atri muni and his wife Anusuya devi and enters Dandakaranya where fate held more trials for them. 

For me, this book brought forth a surge of childhood memories, apart from reminding me that values have remained the same, as have vices and inducements. Although it was a bit tedious at times to read through a few parts (blame it on my hectic schedule), I have every hope that this book will touch a chord with the youth of today, if not for the ethics and lessons this book preaches, at least for the sake of keeping alive our rich mythology and culture. With that in mind, let’s wait for the next installment in the series.

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