Of comebacks, Lord Ram and India’s literary pop star

Of comebacks, Lord Ram and India’s literary pop star

Yeah, I know the title doesn’t make any sense. This blog isn’t supposed to, either. This is, as a certain not-so-fat-anymore friend of mine puts it, my Nirvana moment. This is where I finally break free of the hold that my personal life has over my writing. Supposedly.

So, yesterday, I finally picked up Amish Tripathi’s latest literary venture, The Scion of Ikshavaku, the story of Ram Chandra. Frankly, I was never a huge fan of the Shiva Trilogy and the chaotic and abrupt conclusion that The Oath of the Vayuputras provided hadn’t done anything to change that. As such, I wasn’t expecting much, unlike the majority of the book’s readers. I’ve always believed in standing apart. See, I just can’t keep myself out of it.

Scion begins with Princes Ram and Lakshman of Ayodhya on a hunting expedition, sharing as much camaraderie as Robert and Renly Baratheon on that fateful hunting trip in Game of Thrones. Lakshman’s more willing to make conversation, I’ll give him that. There’s the other difference too, but let’s not get into that now. It took me a while to realize that it was The Hunting Trip. So, Ram kills the deer and they start heading back to their camp when they hear Cersei’s Sita’s cries.They rush back, only to find their camp mutilated and a dying Jatayu, a vulture who is a Naga. I still haven’t wrapped my head around that one. Aren’t vultures supposed to eat snakes? Is it a snide reference to self-destructive nature of our existence? Such dark undertones in the prologue itself, and Amish had me hooked. He’s a genius. And a pop star, of course.

Anyway, Jatayu tells them that Raavan, the all-powerful King of Lanka, had flown away with Sita on his Pushpak Viman, which is basically, a helicopter. Take that Leonardo! And then, Jatayu dies, Ram screams and Amish cuts back to Dashrath getting his ass kicked by Raavan, being rescued by his beloved Kaikeyi and blaming the defeat on his newborn son, Ram, 33 years ago. Apparently, there was this prophecy about Ram’s birth that if he was born before noon, he would be a great king, and if after, would suffer great hardships. Our hero just had to have the best of both worlds. So, surprise, surprise, he was born exactly at noon. The rest of the book, and probably the trilogy, is about our ostracized hero’s struggles to win over his people’s support. Only Lakshman’s displays of affection for his brother outnumber the appearances of the italicized word.

Amish’s Ram is a blend of Yudhisthir’s obsession with Dharma/law and Arjun’s archery skills. He’s righteous, kind, loving and a tad boring at times(like this attempt at a blog, maybe). His brothers offer some much needed variety on that front. While Shatrughan the know-it-all teacher’s pet speaks more in the first few chapters than he did in the entire Ramayana, Lakshman’s overprotective nature is touching in parts, and hilarious usually. Amish seems to have modeled the latter on our beloved door-breaker Daya, what with his eagerness for violence and kuch-toh-gadbad-hai proclivities. Bharat is the surprise package here, the Rust Cohle of this saga, questioning everything, be it the usefulness of human existence, his father’s decadence as the king or the feasibility of his elder brother’s schemes. He is terribly under-utilized though. Maybe that’s deliberate. Because, Amish is a genius.

That brings us to women empowerment, one of the pop star’s most favoured themes. So, Sita is adopted, is blessed with commendable combat skills and is also the Prime Minister of Mithila. Power to women! Manthra, the dasi in the original epic, is the richest person in the kingdom. Power to women! Kaikeyi, the schemer, is the schemer here too. Amish had to let a few recognizable aspects be, right? Power to Amish!

Amish is our very own Steven Moffat. He’s taken a story that we’re all familiar with and has remoulded it with strokes of brilliance. Like including the Swayamvar from Mahabharata in the Ramayana and an unnecessary subplot with references to the unsavoury December 2012 Delhi incident. He’s got a few things right, though. The impromptu battle with Raavan at Mithila is quite the spectacle. As is Dashrath’s final interaction with Kaikeyi. Go read Scion, for the French adept Raghukul, if nothing else.

Why did Hanuman have to be a Naga too?

Jai Shri Ram, I bring this post to a viraam!

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2 thoughts on “Of comebacks, Lord Ram and India’s literary pop star

  1. Not a fan of book reviews and like every other hypocrite I search for book reviews the most. You had me hooked with your sense of humour (satire perhaps or wit maybe, all of them fit well) and oh those references!
    Do one on the Palace of Illusions too, it will be a fun read!

    Like

    1. Hi! Thank you for the kind words and the pains taken to decipher the references. More so, for making me revisit this post. I’ve been wanting to review Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ for a while now, but I just end up referencing or quoting him.

      The Palace of Illusions has been on my to-read list for quite some time now. I’ll do my best to come up with a half decent review, if and when I manage to get through that. Cheers!

      Like

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