I’m not a big reader of graphic novels. Or mythological novels, for that matter. But I was intrigued enough by the premise of “Sita’s Ramayana” to pick it up last week.
I’m not going to summarise the plot – I think most readers of this novel will come to it with a working knowledge of the story anyway. What’s unique about this book is the perspective from which it approaches this ancient tale. Rather than read about great heroes and their noble exploits on the battlefield, this story very firmly bases itself in the women’s perspective.
Told in Sita’s voice, it traces the course of the Ramayana as she experiences, sees and is told about it, from her position of captivity. That Sita has traditionally, in Hindu culture, been considered a model for the meek and unaasertive wife, makes this change of voice that much more interesting. The book candidly portrays the hypocrisies, chauvinism and trickery behind Rama’s winning of the war, always underpinned by war’s effect on the women in society. As Sita points out at one point, men in a war can either ‘redeem’ themselves through heroics and bravado, or die in trying to do so. It is the women left behind who suffer lingeringly and often undeservedly.
While the content has been created by Samhita Arni, in my view it’s the graphics by Moyna Chitrakar that really stand out. Depicted in the Patua scroll painting tradition, the art is earthy and punchy and each strip is beautifully developed.
My gripe about this book would be that I feel it could have had a bit more depth. It almost felt like the story was over too soon, without the readers having enough time with its main protagonist. Obviously the authors were not thinking of creating a massive, weighty tome (along the lines of all other mythological novels) but somehow the second half of the book felt slightly hurried. Given that it was meant to have a somewhat feminist tilt, it might have been interesting to know a little more about Sita’s time in the forest with her sons, and her feelings on Rama’s re-entry into their lives.
An interesting new book and an exciting depiction of an ancient tale.
Maya always has three books going at the same time - a different book for every mood. She loves exploring new authors, but every now and then she sinks back into the comfort of old favourites like murder mysteries and Regency romances. A corporate butterfly, Maya lives and works in Bangalore, India.
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