Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Asura - Tale of the Vanquished (by Anand Neelakantan)

Some books do not end even when you have read the last chapter and have put it back on the shelf. The pages continue to be turned in your mind and some part of you wishes to go back again and read that particular chapter(s) or even a particular page.

And this particular narration of the Ramayana is just one of those. Ramayana has been told and retold but never from the perspective of the vanquished. And we all are aware of the fact that history is always biased, singing paeans of the victor and demonizing/denigrating the losers. So while Lord Rama is worshiped as the epitome of manhood, Ravana is degraded to the status of the evil villain who kidnapped the former's wife. Thankfully, the author has put a fresh spin on it and after reading this book, one will never look at the Ramayana is the same way as one did earlier. Meet Ravana, the complete man with his ten emotions (baser ones included) instead of the demon with ten heads .

The book opens with a grievously injured Ravana awaiting his death in the battlefield. In the final moments of his life, he takes us though his story, his childhood, his journey to the throne of Lanka and the final defeat at the hands of a enemy. As his story plays out, we are also privy into the private life of one of his foot soldiers Bhadra. A very effective ruse adopted by Neelakantan to showcase the divide between the rich and the poor, and how the change of a regimen hardly affects the miserable existence of those perched on the bottom rung of the social ladder.

"Fortunately, our citizens had yet to reach those heights of civilization when they stone women to death."

" I saw Brahmins in filthy clothes, thumping their walking sticks sharply on the ground to drive away any polluting castes. People conducted their business in the market place with elaborate rituals so no one would touch or pollute each other. But they also spat red pan juice all over the street and walked over it. People openly defecated but were still scrupulous about not touching each other.Had it not been so pathetic and ironical, it would have been comical. "

"We will cast away the evil society of the Asuras under Ravana, when men thought that merit and hard work alone could assure them happiness."

Though this book refers to an age that we have left behind, a lot of it is still very much relevant.

One discovers a Ravana who is haughty, egoistic but at the same time aspires to become a great administrator. There is much that our politicians can earn from him. He is, as Bhadra puts him "I understood why Ravana would never be deified. He was too humane to be a God."

If I had to rate this, I would give it a 5/5. Anything less would be injustice to Anand Neelakantan, who has given us this brilliant piece of literature. Truly unforgettable.

No comments:

Post a Comment