Book Review : Shattered Dreams #BookReview

sdBook Details:

Name:  Shattered Dreams

Author: Shubha Vilas

Genre: Mythology / Spiritual

Publisher: Jaico Books

Publication Year: 2015

Number of pages: 387

Price: 350 INR

My rating: 4/5

 

The Storyline 

Ramayana – The Game of Life, Shattered Dreams, which happens to be the second instalment of the series Ramayana – The Game of Life, is preceded by Rise of the Sun Prince, the first instalment which encircles the phase of Ramayana that starts before the birth of Lord Rama and ends with the glorious marriage to Sita. I haven’t read this book (I’m sorely tempted to grab the first part, after having a wonderful experience with the second one), so I can’t really give an opinion about it.

Shattered Dreams takes the story forward 12 years since the famous marriage union of Lord Rama and Sita and chronicles that part of the phase which starts with Dasaratha’s desperate but futile attempts to change his and Ayodhya’s destiny, by deciding to go ahead with a sudden coronation of Lord Rama as the king. If anybody has ever read or heard Ramayana (it would be rare if people haven’t because we have all spent at least a significant part of our childhood, listening to tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata), he/she would be quick to remember what follows after: Manthara’s devious plan leading to vitiating Kaikeyi’s initially pure and chaste mind, to install Prince Bharata as the king instead, by redeeming two unclaimed boons granted by King Dasaratha. It ultimately lead to Dasaratha’s biggest fall, be it to himself or to Rama or to Ayodhya, both apparently his other lives. It is soon followed by the riveting drama that unfolds, leading to Lord Rama’s exile for 14 years and his retreat to the Dandakaranya forest along-with Sita and Lakshmana. Unable to cope up with the loss of his son, Dasaratha expires and Bharata resolves to correct the deliberate constructed mishaps by trying to persuade Rama, only to return empty-handed, albeit wiser.

So the book essentially or the core theme of it, is about ‘shattered dreams’, be it the dreams of Dasaratha (who having horrible premonitions, had wanted to make it go into oblivion, through Rama’s coronation, which ultimately didn’t succeed) or the expectations of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, or in that case, the dreams of all the people of Ayodhya, who had wanted to see Rama as their king.

What worked for me

The first thing that got my attention was that apart from the well-written lucidity of the book, it is the numerous footnotes that grips you, added at every such places where the deed done or decisions taken might be needed to be explained, which is painstakingly done through various easy examples, that aren’t too heavy on one’s mind. It was certainly a refreshing change, as footnotes generally are avoided, especially if that is an epic classic (as the general thought goes, that they might be too much information to process). In fact, I found myself reading each and every footnote and actually enjoying the explanations.

 

Each and every word of the dialogues that transpires in between the characters is not only etched out in details, but the background stories linked with the past history, has been beautifully intertwined with the present phase of the story. It only gives an easy pace to the story, but also makes it interesting to read.

 

As has been confessed at the very first place, I’ve not read the first book, but it doesn’t at all take away anything from this book. In fact, this book can be very well be taken as a standalone book, provided the reader does have got some idea of the story of the initial phase of Ramayana, the cue from which has been followed up in this part of the book.

 

The examples that are used are very reflective of modern dilemmas and their solutions, which conceive of ways to come out clean of situations that might make us go astray from the laid-down right way to lead life. The fact that the author is a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, shows through the instances given and it wouldn’t be a surprise if some readers might find this book to have the inclination of turning into a self-help book, if one goes solely by the footnotes.

What did not work

Keeping in mind that readers might face some initial difficulty in adjusting to the pace of the book, alternating between reading the story and footnotes simultaneously, this might turn out to be the only negative aspect of the book. But of course, it is the footnotes which actually seem to have a story of their own, so maybe the difficulty to adjust might just be worth it.

Drum-roll: Overall Verdict

For readers who are already initiated into the epic that is Ramayana,  this book might just be yet another enjoyable experience for them. Having read Ramayana before, I was completely outbound with a new sensation, that came with having a new perspective added on by the footnotes. Not just for the spiritual knowledge, this book can be recommended for a motivational book as well, with teachings from the glorious past pages of our ancient Indian history.

 

P.S This is my first book review, so here’s sincerely hoping I could do justice to the book.

This review is a part of the biggest “http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/04/indian-bloggers-book-reviews” Book Review Program for “http://www.blogadda.com” Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

 

 

Musings of Jhumpa Lahiri: Looking Back at Time

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Ever felt the joy when you stumble upon a favourite article of yours that you had written long time back and had forgotten all about it? I felt the same when I chanced upon this article I had made on Jhumpa Lahiri, after attending her much-talked-about prologue session in conversation with Rudrangshu Mukherjee, a notable historian, as part of the Kolkata Literary Meet 2014, at the epic Victoria Memorial, Kolkata. Not only was I impressed by what she had said, I could also connect with many of her thoughts, as I’m sure many of the readers will as well. So, without further ado, here it goes.

(Jhumpa Lahiri obviously doesn’t need an introduction. However, for the ignorant mortals, she is an Indian American author. Lahiri’s debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies (1999) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award and The New Yorker Debut of the Year. Her first novel, The Namesake (2003), was a New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist and was selected as one of the best books of the year by USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications and was also adapted into the popular film of the same name. Her book The Lowland, published in 2013, was a nominee for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is also a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama.)

 

‘Absent presence and present absence.’ The first of her musings that struck me was her above statement. In the subsequent conversation that followed, what the audience got was a peek into her mind, her life. Jhumpa Lahiri claims to feeling like literally living in ‘double worlds’. She didn’t quite feel attached to a single place. Wherever she went, the very presence of Calcutta went along with her. But whenever she used to come back to Calcutta, she just couldn’t connect with the city with that same intensity. Feeling herself under constant scrutiny like an outsider, she felt frustrated at the lack of personal connection. She had to continually face this personal alienation, first at the age of 2 and then at the age of 5. (Her family had shifted and moved to provincial old town of west England.) For her, Kolkata was an unknown scary city. A city she wanted to grasp but always went out of her reach, one with melancholic undertones. Her parents had a yearning for the city which she couldn’t associate with. The goodbye nights, when they would return to England, after spending vacations in Calcutta, were terrifying for her. Though being a difficult decision to move out of Calcutta, she also felt exposed to her parents’ longing for the city, being their child. It was a source of constant anxiety for her due to consistent inability to connect to one particular place. But on the other hand, it was a source of freedom from any kind of belonging. According to her, any feeling whatsoever, is psychological, not reality based as such. It is more a figment of mind, this feeling of belonging to a particular place or a thing.

She started her reading in English. She was a passionate and voracious reader. She felt quite nervous in social interactions. In those times, books were her companion. She feels more at home inside a library. Thomas Hardy was an inspiration for her book The Lowland as she tried to recreate his idea of a place. She claims to have 99% of inspiration from English and American writers. Mavis Gallant, a Canadian writer very much inspired her. The writer’s work on exile and many varieties of them. She considers Hardy’s novels as very clean. Because she likes reading both novels and short stories, she likes writing them both. She disagrees that short stories are inferior. In fact, she considers them as one of the most powerful of all literary works.
Coming back to her personal life again, she lamented the loss of the Indian citizenship of her parents. She was again, acutely aware even as a child, that her English was something her parents could not relate with. She considers herself a very confused person, if not and without writing. Finding her calling in writing was a relief for her, because at a particular phase, she was in an utter loss as to what to do. She found her solace in writing. Writing makes her feel whole. She muses; ‘the connection created through writing between you and the outer world is so beautiful. The connection almost feels spiritual connecting with people you don’t even know.’ This is, according to her, literature’s biggest achievement. It gave her life a sense of purpose, which wasn’t really there before.

Her maternal house (at 110, Vivekananda road, Calcutta) were her inspiration for her first two stories. She was quite an observer, with her object being the constant flow of life. It was something quite fascinating for her. Acutely aware that she was a foreign import, an outsider in her own city, she had to grow into it. Accept the reality that she, in fact, felt like an outsider everywhere. She couldn’t call the Americans her own and she couldn’t call the Calcuttans as her own, facing an identity crisis. She obviously had this desire to fit in everywhere. In her book The Lowland, she dealt with a story her parents were trying to piece together, what had happened way back their home in Calcutta. An incident had happened a stone’s throw away from her parents’ house in Calcutta, involving a Naxalite who had been shot in front of his parents. She says, death does kind of pervade Lowland but there are many chances of redemption as well. She also mentions about the flight of the bird Heron, attributing it to the writer Thomas Hardy, who she considers, will be known for noticing such subtle changes or the things going on in nature.

She is of the view that sometimes ignorance is beneficial because with that comes the curiosity for it. She admits to having a superficial knowledge of Indian history yet has the desire to know it more. She finds places near or by the sea very beautiful and her personal favourite. She falls back into leisure musing that the older she is becoming, more is she discovering how fragile Life is. Nature has a profound influence on her as much as time and life has witnessed too. The book The Lowland is so titled because it is literally a place of absence and presence. She mentions of a Cape, a place which has so many ramifications for her life. She liked observing  the high and low tides of the sea, as they came and went. She liked the continuity of Life and the constant cyclical thing of change. She mirrors the her Life as a reflection of the coming and going of seasons. No one particular person or a thing really stayed or had a constant presence in her Life. Just as she said, an absent presence and a present absence in her Life….

I had then and again, refuse to give a conclusion to her thoughts. Some thoughts are best left to be mused on.