Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book-Review of Ramayana : The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams

Author: Shubha Vilas     
Genre: Mythology
Publisher: Jaico Books
Publication Year: 2015
Number of Pages: 387
Price: Rs. 350

About the Author - Shubha Vilas: He is a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, holds a degree in engineering and law with specialization in Patent Law. His leadership seminars are popular with top-level management in corporate houses. He also helps individuals deal with modern-life situations by applying the teachings of the Bhagwad Gita, Ramayana and other dharmic traditions. (Courtesy: Amazon.in)

Ramayana: The Game of Life – Shattered dreams, by Shubha Vilas is a sequel to his previous work – Ramayana: The Game of Life – Rise of Sun Prince. I can’t draw the comparison with his ‘Rise of Sun Prince’, since I have not read that, but I found this book to be unique in its own way. Ramayana is an age-old epic and we are no strangers to the story. Although mythological tales have been reiterated many times, this book links the stories very deeply with the philosophies of life. As the title of the book says, indeed it talks about ‘Game of Life’. A very interesting read which explores the epic’s various dimensions, basically revolves around the incidents leading to Rama’s exile, Lakhsmana / Sita deciding to join Rama, Dashratha’s death and Bharata’s humility and his persuading Rama to come back.

I must admit that it was quite challenging to finish reading it within a span of seven days, since it needed an in-depth reading. I felt like going back and re-reading it again. I also wanted to just sit back and ponder upon the beautiful concepts / philosophies of life mentioned in the footnotes. I wanted to look within myself and focus on my insights as a reader. Simple yet powerful leadership sutras are also mentioned in the footnotes. Rather, almost every paragraph of the book talks about a concept. Various chapters are titled in a very interesting manner which raises curiosity to understand how the chapter justifies the titles. An excellent effort to revisit the epic with an in-depth analysis.

Shubha begins the book with Dasaratha’s running breathlessly. Between his delusions and his consciousness, Dasaratha realizes that he is in fact fighting two monsters – the monster within and the monster outside. Which of the two monsters was Dasaratha fleeing from? Dasaratha desperately wants to change his and Ayodhya’s ordained destiny. Dasaratha’s moonbeam is none other than Rama.      

We all are aware of the main plot of Ramayana, but what makes the narration beautiful is the sub plots and stories of characters apart from Rama and Sita weaved with the larger context. It is also interesting to understand, how Nemi became Dasaratha and how Dasagriva (Ravana) was born with the attributes of both races – Rakshasas (asuras) as well as that of Brahmanas.

Apart from Rama and Sita’s stories, other stories and characters are also discussed in detail, be it Dasagriva’s rivalry with his half-brother Kubera, the flying tyrant – Pushpak Vimana, the invincible father-son duo Ravana-Meghananda, Ravana’s journey to become Trilokeshwar, Manthara corrupting Kaikeyi’s mind (detailed version), Rama meeting Trijata, the boatman Guha, Charioteer Sumantra’s bidding adieu to Rama, the Hope March. Anasuya’s covert prediction of future to Sita  etc. The book explores various relationships and its intricacies beautifully.

Shubha discusses life’s philosophies so minutely. Some of them which I found so useful are:
  • Six inner enemies
  • Why do people who love each other suddenly realize that they have nothing in common?
  • How does one handle reversals in life?
  • Can negative emotions be tools to display positive love?
  • Confronting blame and praise
  • The five tips on management, a good leader should adhere to

The insights which I gathered from the footnotes are many, but I want to make a special mention of a few of them, which enticed me, and made me fall in love with this book:
  • Life is a combination of hope and despair, the one that dominates you carves your personality.
  • The easiest way to forget your limitations is to shift the focus from self-absorption to active-facilitation.
  • Every protector needs protection. Being constantly reminded of such a need keeps the protector humble.
  • The danger of anger is that it suddenly makes one a stranger to others.
  • The pain is supremely acute when an unavoidable and uncontrollable obstacle terminates an expectation that was very close to being met.
  • The highest manifestation of gracefulness is gratefulness.
  • The easiest way to evade truths was to shrug them off as fantasies spun by fertile minds, rather fearful minds.
  • Expressions of love may be illogical, but expressions of expectations should be logical.

What could have been avoided or improved? I felt, at certain instances, concepts are connected just for the sake of it. Also, at one point, when Sita calls Rama by his name, the footnote says: Sita was so hurt that she addressed Rama by His own name. In traditional societies, women did not directly call their husbands by their names. That Sita was hurt was evident from that one utterance. She realized her mistake immediately and ensured that she never repeated it again. Didn't this footnote reflect male chauvinism or non-acceptance of diversity? Too much description at times slows down the pace.

Yes, the story of Ramayana is not new. Various philosophies discussed are also not new. But yes, what makes this book a must-read is the simplicity with which the plot has been presented and related with the Game of Life. It turns out to be self-help book, a wonderful merger of spirituality with way of life. The learnings can be easily comprehended and applied by anyone, be it of any age, gender or walks of life. The book is packaged with an attractive cover-page and easily readable fonts (with appropriate font size) in inner pages.

Picking up from Author’s Note, it begins with a bewildering dilemma and ends with a riddle.

Ramayana: The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams is a Value-based book which would definitely entice you. Happy reading!!!

Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

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