Book: Ramayana – The Game of Life: Stolen Hope
Author: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico Books
Note: This book is third in the series of six books
We have all heard the story of Rama and also its various versions. Most of us know of the peripheral whats, whens, hows & whys, and the story as narrated to us, ends with a moral. We have agreed, disagreed and debated over the turn of events umpteen times. Shubha Vilas’s Ramayana – The Game of Life takes Ramayana to a whole new level.
I began with the 3rd book in the series – Stolen Hope. Yes. You can start with it since it gives a gist, in the beginning, of what happened until then and you really don’t feel that you missed anything. But by the end of this review, you’ll know why starting from book 1 is for the best.
Blurb of the Book
It begins with a sage narrating the history of Dandakaranya – The Dandaka forest – to Rama, Sita & Lakshmana. While reading through the narrative wide-eyed, I noticed numbers marking certain words and footnotes given below the pages. It didn’t take long to realize that the author has done an in depth study in Ramayana. He has analyzed how each aspect of the story can be related to real life and how it can be applied in certain situations. In some parts he gives the cause and effect of certain actions. These footnotes not only help us in analysing the story at a deeper level, but also guide us to look within ourselves.
Here is an excerpt from the book that will give you an idea of how it works. This is one of my favorite analysis from the author.
The body of the book reads:
“And the focus of the sages had been to attain self-perfection, but the menace of the rakshasas has channelled their focus to self-protection instead.”
The footnote related to this says:
“Coexistence of opinions is saintly life. Extermination of others’ opinion is demoniac life. Just as sages and demons coexisted in the Dandakaranya forest, with the demons trying to exterminate the sages, virtues and vices coexist within each individual. When vices try to exterminate virtues, then Rama needs to come in.
When negative forces try to influence our lives, our focus changes from inward evolution to outward aversion. Driven by fear, the sages of Dandakaranya instead of focusing on inner upliftment, began to focus on outward resistance.”
The situation that led to restlessness in sages, have been analysed in depth and it has been correlated with similar situations in our lives. While the purpose of human life is self-evolution and happiness that we go after is in fact within ourselves, when adversity strikes, we tend to look outside for solution, support and happiness. Our focus shifts from our purpose and we need Rama – call it faith, will power, support, motivation – to get us back on track.
Ramayana has been told and retold in various versions and myriad tongues. Even here, I came across new course of events. Vali – the monkey King, and Ravana were friends. Sita throws a blade of grass between herself and Ravana, who was advancing towards her angrily. The blade of grass stops him on his tracks. To know the reasons for these, you will have to delve deep into the book. The mere act of throwing the grass is substantiated with close to a dozen reasons, each one more denser than the other. It is said that people in that era, spoke and acted with great caution. Every action of theirs was deliberate and had deep meanings. This was one such.
These new perspectives and analysis gelled well with the story and gave a freshness that helped me go with the flow. The book ends with Rama and Lakshmana wandering in search of Sita and chancing upon the ashram where Shabari resides. After a heart-warming episode here, the curtains fall.
The Prancing Deer
At the bottom of the page is a deer. The deer is seen to be standing, walking, prancing as the page turns. As the story advances, the deer moves forward through the book. It moves from the left end and reaches the right end, to be shot by an arrow. Having known the author through his writings, I’d like to believe that this deer has an inner significance, though I don’t know what that is. I fell in love with the deer gradually and it hurt when I saw it shot in the end. This was a unique bit I haven’t seen in any other books. 🙂
The author is a spiritual seeker and a motivational seeker. His intentions of imparting knowledge and providing motivation through epics have been made very clear through his writings. Giving footnotes for certain course of events, the author helps the readers analyse the situation and provides guidance as to how these teachings can be applied in real life. This is why I had mentioned that reading the series from the beginning is useful if you intend to take home the teachings. Written in a simple language, this book could also be given to children to draw values and morals from.