Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ramayana- Stolen Hopes

Title - Ramayana - The Game of Life - Stolen Hopes (Book 3)
Author- Shubha Vilas
Publisher -JAICO Publishing House
Total pages 312
Price Rs. 299
Formats available - Paperback and Kindle

Its been very long since I reviewed any book. But when you receive a signed copy of the book by the author himself, you have to blog about it for sure. Ramayana- The Game of Life - Stolen Dreams is third in the series written by Shubha Vilas. And if you have missed the first two books, not to worry. The book has summery of the first two books. But summary is only about the general story and not the short stories / Upakatha that you get to read in a Shubha Vilas book. So it is good if you can get the first two books too.

The book starts in Dandakaranya and then to the sages and their trouble with the Rakshasas and the massacre of Rakshasas of Janmasthana. After the massacre at Janmasthana there is Sita's abduction and the story ends with the meeting of Rama and Lakshmana with Shabari and their quest for the wonder monkeys Sugriva and his group in order to save Sita from Ravana's clutches.

As Indians, Ramayana is not new for us. We have heard the story from our parents and grandparents, read in Amar Chitra Katha, seen on television and read other books too. What is different about this book is Shubha Vilas's writhing. The language is pretty simple and eloquent and can be easily understood by kids too. The other major plus point of this book are the short stories / Upakathas. I mean, one gets to read so many back stories, short stories / Upakatha, in this book which makes this book all the more interesting. All these back stories helps us to know more about the relative characters other than Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in a better way and in turn helps us to understand our epic better. 

The many stories of Agastya Rishi helps in a better understanding of him. Without the upakathas Agastya would have remained just another character that we read in our epics. but Shubha Vilas has written so many small stories about Agasthya that we get a good understanding of him. Similarly Rama's meeting with Shabari has been elaborated so as to provide us with a good knowledge about Shabari and her role in Ramayana. There are Upakathas about Ravana, Virada, Vatapi and Illvala, etc. There are references to Meru Parvata, Nahusha, Mandarkini, Kabandha, Matanga Rishi, Sati, etc. 

One should read this book once to know about all these characters and also about life lessons that Ramayana teaches us. There is this one instance when Sita who disapproves of Rama involving himself in killing the demons to cleanse the forest of Panchavati and protecting the Sages. Her reason being that they are in exile and so should refrain from violence. But Rama explains that Kshatriya dharma is to protect the helpless ones from the evil. He explains to Sita that by wearing a sage's attire, he cannot forget his duty of following the Kshatriya Dharma.

This book provides a proper insight of how Gods in the form of human think. Even if they are the incarnation of God himself, one can always see the human touch and human trait in the characters. For example the scene before Sita's abduction, in a desperate attempt to send Lakshmana to Rama's rescue, Sita doubts Lakshmana's character. These traits shows the human side to God like characters of Ramayana.

Also the specialty of Shubha Vilas's Ramayana series is the little foot notes throughout the novel. These footnotes usually contain some explanations, back stories or some philosophical notes about life lessons. Shubha Vilas is a spiritual seeker, motivational speaker, holds a degree in engineering and law with s specialization in patent law. So along with narrating the story of Ramayana, the book contains the philosophical narrations which gives us valuable lessons about life.

The designs in the foot note throughout the book is also very interesting. In the Shattered Dreams, Rama's Paduka / Slippers were used very effectively in the footnotes throughout the book to show the departure of Rama from Ayodhya for exile. And in this book, Stolen Hope, similar approach has been taken. Design of a deer is used throughout the book in the footnotes. The deer changes its position and there is movement throughout the book. I liked the cover of Shattered Dreams much better compared to Stolen Hopes though.

The book has a mixture of traditional as well as a modern approach in narration. And apart from the story, the foot notes are the highlights of this book. Its worth a read if you are in to mythology, spiritual and self-help kind of books. You can buy the Kindle edition here

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Man!!

Life is Beautiful!! Time and again I have said this to myself and to anyone who listens to me. Life is what you want it to be and how you want it to be. Its been three years now since my beloved  Grandpa passed away and there has not been one day when I don't miss him or remember him. He was an inspiration not just to me or my family .... but he was an inspiration to a lot of people who had known him. 

Whenever I feel down I ask Dad to tell me Grandpa's story, and like a doting son-in-law, he obliges. My Grandpa never went to school it seems. He had attended a eleven day camp type thing held at a gurukul it seems. So he was an illiterate. But somehow he kept on practicing reading and writing throughout his life and could manage to read and write slowly. It is said that his father was forced to leave the house with his small kids by his brother. 

So basically he belonged to a very poor family and had six siblings and old parents and a wife to support too at a very young age. With his hard work, grandpa bought a big piece of land and by the time my Mom was born, they even constructed a very nice and big house too. He was a man of very strong opinions and also a very righteous man. People used to come to him when  they had disputes. Soon he became a person who had power and influence among the local people. Even ministers would come to him during and after elections so that he could persuade people to vote for them. He even tried a bit of politics himself but he realized that politics was not for people who had opinions of their own. 

He was a simple man. Always dressed in a piece of dhoti which was always stained due to all the work he did in and around his house or field. He always had one or the other story to tell, some funny incident to recall and lot of dreams for all of us. Whenever I used to visit him I would see him busy in work. He would take me to the paddy fields, areca nut groove and cashew plantation. I loved his company a lot. He had so many things to share, to teach us.   

When he passed away lot of people came from all over the place. People whom the family didn't know came and told us how my grandpa had helped them in time of need. Each and every person had some kind words to tell about him. One stranger came to my Granny and told him how my Grandpa had helped him with a very big amount at the middle of night when grandpa himself was in trouble. That was my Grandpa. And he never disclosed this to any in the family. He would sponsor poor students and always valued education a lot. Even without the formal education he had read the Hindu epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Geeta, Manu Smriti and even the Upanishads. He knew about all the Hindu traditions and stuff like that. And despite all this he was the most broad minded person I had ever seen. He never believed in superstitions and challenged the abnormal rules and regulations. 

I always wonder what if he had got the opportunity of education like the rest of us. What all he would have achieved if he was given all the opportunities that the rest of his peers got. Sadly we will never know. But he has and always will be my greatest inspiration in life. I learnt a lot from him. My inspiration!!!! The Man!!! My Man!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Going to the Past

Many feel that social media like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp , etc., are a waste of time. But I feel its a boon... a blessing in disguise. I'll tell you why.....

My father was in a transferable job and so we never stayed in one single place for more than three years. And also I belong to the generation where back then, we didn't have regular phones in every house hold. That means that I was not able to keep in touch with a lot of my school friends regularly. Ya we used to write letters to each other for a while..... but you know as we grew up we got busy in our lives and we kind of drifted apart. We lost contact.

When in college, the era of  cell phones started and so we kind of remained in contact. But I always missed my High school buddies. Then came the era of Facebook and slowly many friends reconnected. But after such a long time one doesn't know what to speak to and we kind of remained just "friends" on Facebook. And life went on.....

Then suddenly one of our class mate got the idea of forming a group on WhatsApp and started collecting phone numbers. I was a bit apprehensive about it in the beginning. Anyway I gave it and then when he added me to the group, I felt soo out of place in the group as I was one of the very few who had left the place after high school and the rest of them had continued their studies in the same city. And so I couldn't recognize many of my old friends.

 I just said hi in the group and kept silent. It was irritating me that I didn't remember half of my friends and was not comfortable there either. But after a couple of days, as the group started growing, I realized many were in the same position as me. Like me, a few of my friends too didn't remember each and everyone. So we all started talking and slowly we all warmed up and unknowingly we chatted the whole day. Some of us finally called each other and spoke too.

We started sharing old stories, incidents and all the hidden memories came flooding back!! It was such a memorable day just talking about school days.....the fun, the punishments, the homeworks, the competitiveness and the crushes ( ;-) ) and what not!! All the memories made us young again and took us seventeen years back. All the nick names, the mischief done in class, the pranks played on teachers!!!! Oh !! So many sweet memories!! And suddenly we were not strangers anymore. I don't feel like a stranger in my group anymore.... in fact they have all become my best buddies...

 It was my memorable day in the recent past!!! It felt so good to reconnect with my past. Are you people still in contact with your school buddies? If not just do that!! It feels sooo good and fresh!!!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Start A New Life

I am amazed when I see people who know what they want to do in their life, about their goals and aims in their life. When I finished my 10th standard, all I wanted to study was science. I loved Biology and Physics equally in 11th standard. But when I was in 12th, I realized that Medical was not my cup of tea and I had no interest in Engineering.There were not many options and I didn't have any knowledge as such about these things and not many good guides who would talk about our interests or give us knowledge. So like everybody else who didn't pursue Engineering or Medical, I took Computer Science in College. But somewhere I realized that Computer Science was a lifeless subject and programming was not what I wanted to do. But anyway I continued like everybody else.

After graduating I still didn't know what I wanted to do. So I brought applications for M.S., and M.C.A. But suddenly my life took a big turn and I got married and I became a home maker. Then I became a mother and life went on. But somewhere the desire to do something was constantly was on my mind. I used to draw and scribble a lot when in college and hadn't left that one thing even after I got married. Slowly and steadily, this hobby started becoming my passion and finally after a lot of detours, I finally realized my goal and took up painting seriously. Now after all these years, I am an art graduate too and pursuing masters in the subject which is close to my heart.

After a lot of struggle and lot of practice and more patience and a lot many rejections, finally I feel that I am on MY WAY. This is the path I wanted to be in and I am finally happy. And in April 2015, i.e., next month, I am going to be participating in my first Group show in Calicut/ Kozikode. 

Not in my wildest of dreams, had I ever dreamed of becoming an artist.... let alone participating in an exhibition!!! This is a new chapter of my life!! I have traveled a long way from Science to Arts. I am nervous and excited and happy! So wish me luck guys!! Its never too late to start fresh. You have a dream, just go for it.

Go and fulfill your dream now!!! However small or big that dream is, it doesn't matter.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Flying..... Flying like a bird....... I want to be free like a bird... fly away...... fly till my heart's content..... to be free..... independent.....carefree....

That freedom, that feeling of being independent from all responsibilities, duties, etc., is often compared with flying. But have you ever thought that birds are not free.... They do not fly because they are free.... On the contrary the fly because they have to fend for themselves and their kids and to survive. They have to fly in search of food, shelter, and to protect themselves from predators. They fly because that is what makes them birds. They fly because that is the only way they can survive......

That means that birds that fly in the open air high above are not free?!?! Does that mean that they are not independent? So where does this place those birds in cages? Those birds that do not get the freedom to fly at all. They do not get to use their wings which is the main feature of that species by which we say that it is a bird and not an animal.The birds in captivity do not have to fend for themselves... they are fed and looked after properly, but are not allowed to fly.They are protected from predators, well fed, given shelter in captivity and yet not allowed to fly. So is this captivity or independence ?

Isn't all this confusing. When we see a bird flying freely in the air our heart feels and aches to fly like them and when we see a bird kept in a cage , our heart aches for them too..... But does our heart really ache or feel? When someone says my heart is aching for you or my heart broke what do they mean? Didn't we all learn that the heart is an organ which cleanses and pumps blood? How can it ache or break or think or feel? I would like to take a break before my thoughts become more absurd !!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ramayana - The Game of Life- Shattered Dreams Book Review

For may years Ramananda Sagar's Ramayana was the original Ramyana and Arun Govil  Lord Rama for me. Though I had got the opportunity to listen to many Ramayana stories form my Mom and an uncle , the television series had a great influence on me. Later on I got to read Ramayana from Amar Chitra Katha and some other books too. A few years ago my friend introduced me to Ashok K Banker's Ramayana series. Though I was reluctant at first, I simply fell in love with his vision and narration style and I started to  read and love these epics again. 

Mythology is one of my favorite genre and Mahabharata and Ramayana are always classics. No matter how many times you read it you get to read new stuff. And according to me every author has his own perspective of these classics. Every Author brings his own version of the epic whenever he or she writes the Ramayana or the Mahabharatha. Shubha Vilas's Ramayana, The Game Of Life is a series of 6 books. I am writing the review of the second part of this book called Shattered Dreams. 

In Shattered Dreams, the author narrates the beginning of Rama's exile. The book starts with Dasaratha deciding to hand over the throne to Rama, his eldest son. And then starts the twists and turns that changes the course of the story. This book deals with the emotional aspect of Ramayana rather than the story itself. Shubha narrates the agony of the King, Kausalya, and the other queens, the courtiers and the common people when Rama , Lakshmana and Sita leave for the forest for fourteen years.  

It begins with a happy note of Rama's coronation. Then comes Manthara's scheming and then sthe story moves to Keikeyi who falls for Manthara's evil scheme and brings havoc to Ayodhya. And then one gets to see the human emotions where Rama, Sita and Lakshmana give all the worldly happiness and move to the forest just to fulfill Dasaratha's promise to Keikeyi. 

What I liked most the most about this book is the mention of Urmila, Lakshmana's wife, who has been ignored in many books I have read so far. I have always felt sorry for her character because we never get to read much about her though she has sacrificed as much as the trio has. Also the small small back stories about Ravana, Dasaratha, Indra, the fisherman, etc add so much depth to the book. I won't be writing more because I don't want to be a spoilsport here. Please do read the book to know more. 

If you are the philosophical kind then this book is a must for you because of the various footnotes provided by the author. He has given explanations to almost all of the actions of all the characters and also provided a few back stories here and there. Sometimes you will also get to read  comparisons with Mahabharatha and other stuff.

Overall the book is worth a read if you are into mythology and philosophy.What I didn't like were these little foot notes were more about morality, spirituality and philosophy than about the story itself. That might be because I am not a very spiritual or philosophical person. I felt that the book was a bit lengthy in some places. Otherwise Ramayana is a classic and any day you read it, there is something to learn, something more to read and something extra to know and ponder upon. More over we need a bit of spirituality and philosophy in this age more so because we have become more materialistic. And Ramayana teaches us that Rama is Lord Rama because of his virtues and he sacrificing the worldly pleasures just to fulfill his father's promise.

This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and this review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers for Blogadda . Participate now to get free books!