Scion of Ikshavaku – An Old Story with a New Face

I seem to have a thing for books about the royalty. After devouring The Forest and some other wonderful books over the last one month, I found myself at Landmark a couple of weeks ago, with Amish Tripathi’s latest offering – Scion of Ikshavaku in my basket. This is the first of book of his new Ram Chandra Series. He has already won our hearts and minds with his depiction of Shiva as a mortal in his Shiva Trilogy. So I was quite eager to read his latest.

I feel that this book cannot have spoilers . We Indians have all known this story since we were toddlers 🙂  Anyone with the least bit of interest in India, would have heard of our ‘Epicly Epic’ Ramayana. Why the interest in this book then?

Amish Tripathi has established himself as the king of popular mythological fiction in India . His characters are well defined and his stories are beautifully woven . It takes some mettle to drive us outside the realm of what we know and make us think of these well known mythological characters as flesh and blood people with a life of their own complete with flesh and blood emotions . And the author has proven yet again that he has what it takes to do it .

We meet Dashrath, the proud ruler whose overconfidence led him to make a grave error of judgement, which he rues daily. He does not think twice before transferring the weight of his guilt to his well meaning wife Kaushalya and little Ram Chandra who just happened to come into the world on the day his father suffered his biggest defeat. We see Kaikeyi , the brave, brilliant and beautiful princess, who is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that her Brilliance is a source of shame to her father . We meet the pragmatic Sumitra, who always tried to make the best of any situation . Even the largely disliked Manthara has a story and a motive to which we can relate ( here we find a strong contemporary reference to a horrific even in recent times). Then of course , there is our favourite Band of Brothers – Ram , Bharath, Lakshman and Shatrughan. Amish has sketched their personalities in meticulous detail as we follow them from infancy to adulthood. Sita’s character is interesting too, and I applaud Amish for showing us that battle scars can be worn as a badge of beauty. We have a generous sprinkling of ancient Rishi wisdom and the ever present familial conspiracy. And then we have appearances from the other Ramayana characters at expected junctures, some of them appearing as Nagas. Even Somras (from the Shiva Trilogy) makes an appearance .

All these are real people and it’s their reality that makes them magical. The author does a fantastic job of delivering this magic to us. Even then, I constantly found myself comparing this book to the Shiva Trilogy . I know that is a different book about a different time and a fundamentally different character, but I still feel that the Scion of Ikshavaku does not pack the same punch as The Immortals of Meluha . At times, I felt that the story was being weighed down by elaborate descriptions of Ayodhya’s past glory and grandeur. Sometimes the narrative stood still for just a moment longer than was perfect , and at other times it ran just a bit faster than I liked . Maybe it’s just the familiarity of this story ( everything in the Shiva Trilogy was brand new to me ). Maybe it’s just that seeing Shiva the God as a mortal was more enchanting than reading about the life of a mythical king I have known forever. Maybe I was expecting a bit more innovation from Amish.

To be fair, this is a good read and a very good effort from the author. It’s only when compared to The Immortals of Meluha, that it falls short of the mark. I am looking forward to the next instalment of this series.

[Image Source – goodreads.com]

Currently on the bedside table

I took this picture just before I dozed off last night . I had just finished We are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler , a hilarious , thoughtful and deeply moving book . Then came my customary 20 pages of The Forest . And finally a few pages of The Awkward Octopus from my dear Kindle . With all these wonderful stories brewing a heady cocktail in my brain , Dreamland was fun!  

On his Blindness and Ours

This is longer and more serious than other things I write about and this took me a while to put down coherently.

Whenever I come across a poem which appeals to me, I commit it to memory. And then, when I’m in one of my spells of staring into nothingness with the teacup in my hand, I like to think about the lines of poems I’ve memorized. It’s something of a relaxation ritual for me.

On his Blindness by John Milton has been with me ever since I read it in 10th grade but lately, I’ve found myself thinking about this particular poem very often.

Back in 10th grade, Milton was the subject. Milton, anguished at his blindness, couldn’t fathom a life without light. How could he do God’s work when God had struck him blind?

 But Patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed

And post o’er land and ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and wait

[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_His_Blindness]

He reasoned with himself and went on to produce his magnum opus.

Instead of Milton, now I think of myself and everyone I see around me.
Maybe that’s because I’ve been reading about the death of a young banker, one of several, actually. These people who are younger than Milton, even younger than me ,were so overwhelmed with work, that they decided to stop living.

Had they even started yet?

I think about the scores of people in their late twenties and early thirties , who’ve encountered the Quarter-Life Crisis. It is no news that depression, anxiety among youth is on the rise. The disillusionment that cause this comes from Blindness.  Blind to possibilities, opportunities and inspiration, we plough on with our lives, losing ‘That One Talent‘ somewhere down the road.

At least Milton seemed to know what his purpose in life was. Even in his darkness, he was seeking a way to fulfil it. Did he also perhaps see death as a welcome relief?

Image Source : http://www.healthination.com/
Image Source : www.healthination.com

This blindness that’s crippling so many of us today, what is it , if not a product of years of social conditioning , and the burden of a million expectations? People are inherently different, and hence the parameters of success cannot and should not be the same for everyone. As the poem goes, there can be more than one path to self-actualization , and that is perhaps more relevant today than in any other day and age.

Let me start with Home. Even though they have our best interests at heart, sometimes our families push us into doing things which we’re not made for – Blindness. This continues into the workplace where we put in hours and hours for things we don’t feel motivated to do – Blindness. We’re afraid to make a commitment to ourselves, to explore things we like, because by now we can no longer see ourselves clearly – Blindness. And then some of us give up, because they really couldn’t see another way..

I am rambling now, but that’s only because this is something I feel very strongly about. If your child wants to be a painter, let him try to be one! If she wants to write, or help animals, or work with the homeless, let her, not because it’s going to improve her chances of getting into a  prestigious college and landing that 6 figure salary and making you look good in your circles, but simply because it might be her chance at fulfilment and happiness. Educate and enlighten them as best as you can. But PLEASE , do not burden them with your hopes and dreams and expectations! Teach them introspection. Teach them to take responsibility for their own choices. Let them make their own mistakes. Let them be human.

We as a society, cannot afford to keep losing precious young people because they couldn’t see past their next obstacle.

Image Source :http://advindicate.com/articles/?author=51c0ce13e4b084d494a71ab4
Image Source :http://advindicate.com/articles/?author=51c0ce13e4b084d494a71ab4

[ Header image source: http://advindicate.com/articles/1316 ]

Wall – Street – Art

As a child , I doodled a lot . I had access to a lot of stationary ( my parents are professors and my sister was in middle school back then ) , but I didn’t like anything as much as I liked blank bare walls . Needless to say , that talent was nipped in the bud by my watchful mother .

Last December , I saw these beautiful paintings on the walls of really old buildings in Neuchatel, Switzerland . Unlike my art , these have been painted with permission from the authorities. We went on a walking tour of the place guided by an amazing German lady, who had moved to Switzerland with her husband years ago. She took us through this quaint little street, pointing out the drawings. Sometimes, they’re made for the pleasure of children, sometimes to beautify an otherwise derelict looking building, and sometimes, they’re made in prominently displayed walls of the city and depict Neuchatel, as it was , centuries ago.

Here are some of my favourite drawings.

Flowers on the wall
Flowers on the wall

Almost real window sill
Almost real window sill

Not too fond of bugs, but the drawing was cute!
Not too fond of bugs, but the drawing was cute!

Plants
Little outdoor garden

Flowers on the ledge
Flowers on the ledge

Vines
Vines

Helter Skelter Rock Bar :) Love the name
Helter Skelter Rock Bar 🙂 Love the name

Kitty Cat fooled me for a second
Kitty Cat fooled me for a second

Instruments
Instruments

Impressive Facade
Impressive Facade

A closer look
A closer look

Ye Olde Neuchatel
Ye Olde Neuchatel

They paint the street every spring. The snow washes off the colours in winter. And There's the hubby :)
They paint the street every spring. The snow washes off the colours in winter. And There’s the hubby 🙂

They paint windows too.
They paint windows too.

The Next One of the Lot 

Recently , I started my own little reading challenge . To read the 65 absolutely unknown books that I had acquired from a source on Facebook. Read about in my post Sixty-Five .

After my second Box-book , I was inexplicably drawn to Game of Thrones (my feelings about that book deserve a separate post ).

After that unexpected detour I am back my box and I just started with The Forest. The streak of royalty, started by GOT continues I guess, and why not? Stories about kings , queens and knights and traitors are so much fun 🙂

 

This week, there was a lovely post by The Bookshelf of Emily J. about the piles of books around her home . I think I will just let the piles around my home grow while ride deeper into The Forest.

What’s Simmering ? :D

One of the many things I like about my workplace is the flexibility it offers in terms of timings and location .

Today , I’m Working from Home , which in addition to letting me get done with tasks that require maximum concentration and individual work , also allows me to make and have this for lunch .

  Cauliflowers marinated in yoghurt and spices and slow cooked with peas tomatoes and potatoes , finished off with a garnishing of Kasuri Methi.

Hmm .. I wonder if there’s anything left of that tub of ice cream 🙂

What’s On Scarlett O’Hara’s Playlist?

I don’t know if I LOVE Scarlett, or HATE her. Passionate as she is, I cannot associate her with any emotions of mediocre intensity. I found this awesome post on 101 Books on what her playlist would have been. How could I not reblog this ? 🙂

101 Books

It’s time for another literary character playlist using Spotify!

Today, let’s look at what everybody’s (least?) favorite fictional southern diva might listen to, were she alive today and actually real.

I’m talking about Scarlett O’Hara.

She’s a strong, opinionated, feminine character who, usually, gets what she wants—including whatever man she wants. But she can be a softy too, and I think this playlist reflects her character well.

There’s the “screw you” vibe in Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know,” but there’s also the “I miss you and love you so much” vibe from Adele’s “Someone Like You.” It’s mostly mainstream, top 40 style music, because I think that’s what Scarlett would be in to. No obscure indie college bands here.

Basically, this is a playlist of break-up songs–because between Rhett and Ashley it seems Scarlett’s got more man troubles than mostly. And a lot of it is her fault.

See what…

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