30 Days Book Challenge – Day 28 – A Book That Disappointed Me
Asura, Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakanthan
Ramayana has eluded me from many angles. I never agreed with many of the practices of Lord Rama, the most important being, distrusting Sita and asking her to go through the Agni-pareeksha. Stories, having been told and retold, definitely change with time. As years pass by, things are added, omitted or forgotten and the real story gets twisted, badly!
Hence, I wondered what Ravana’s side of the story would have been. I have heard that Ravana was a good person, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and a wonderful musician. His only folly was that he kidnapped Sita. There are many variations of the story. Some say that Sita was Ravana’s long lost daughter. Some say that he was attracted to her. Others say that Sita was so beautiful that he wanted her as an adornment for the Golden city, Lanka. There is a version that suspects Sita did actually like Mr. Badass Ravana. 😉 (And I like that :P)
One fine day, I heard of the book, Asura. The author narrates the story of Ravana from the viewpoint of an Asura named Bhadra. Of course! It is fictional. Yet, he had piqued my interest and I finally grabbed the book.
The glitch in my reading system began with the incessant spelling errors and grammatical flaws in the book. Yet, for the sake of the story, I continued reading. I don’t remember the exact point when things began to turn ugly. Because, I did not like how Ravana and his family were depicted right from the beginning – Ill-treated and ignored by his Brahmin father.
The involvement of King Mahabali who understands Ravana’s potential and decides to endow him with knowledge threw me off the story for a while. I have never heard of any relationship between Ravana & Mahabali. I mean, Vamana (Mahavishnu’s 5th Avtar) sent him to Pathal lok (Underground) long before Rama Avtar, or so I believe!
In the later stages of the book, the author does not even get the story in line with the famous Ramayana. Well, he tries. The result is;
- A mess of twisted facts, lust and rapes playing important roles and degrading of Brahmanism.
- He has tried to set the story in line with the caste system and the concept of rich getting richer and poor becoming poor. But really? Did he have to twist Ramayana that badly?
To make this easier, let me compare this book to that of Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy. There were neither many unwanted characters, nor many unwanted incidents. The only addition he made was the concept of Somras and he ensured that he did not put in too many details. Amish wrapped it up very neatly, without disturbing the contents of the original story of Lord Shiva. He tied a ribbon around the wrapped up story and had me weeping for two days. Trust me! I knew that Sati would die. Yet, I cried. 🙂
I read The Shiva Trilogy long before Asura. Yet, I remember the details of all the 3 books, while 75% of Asura remains forgotten. I would prefer to forget it completely.
Anand Neelakanthan attempts to question why Ravana and his clan are considered demonic in spite of having many good qualities, while Rama had flaws and was considered a God. I do appreciate the efforts put in by the author to explore Ravana’s side. My appreciation ends right there!
PS – I did some research and found an equal number of negative and positive reviews about the book. For another point of view, read the comments below. It might help if you’re wondering whether or not to read it. 🙂