“I forgave you a long time ago’, I say to Ram. ‘Though I didn’t know it until now because this is the most important aspect of love whose other face is compassion. It isn’t doled out drop by drop, it doesn’t measure who is worthy and who isn’t. it is like the ocean. Unfathomable. Astonishing. Measureless. “
These are the closing lines of Sitayana; Sita’s Ramayana and of the best endings I have read till now.
The basic storyline is the same, Ravan, mesmerized by Sita’s beauty kidnaps her. She remains faithful to ram throughout her imprisonment and is rescued by him at last. Sounds like a happy ending, but in reality, it wasn’t. ram made Sita undergo Agnipariksha to prove her fidelity then banishes his pregnant wife to the forest because people start gossiping and questioning Sita’s character and when she returns after spending 14 years in exile, ram asks her to walk through fire again, which is actually not much of a test as it is public humiliation. So, we see it was not a happy ending as we were told.
Divakaruni’s Sitayana gives us an insight into the lives of all female characters from their perspective unlike the original Ramayana which has been written and rewritten solely by male hands. Sita is a hero’s wife whose only role is to wait and to be rescued and who always comes second in her husband’s life. “Write our story, too” the woman character in the story say.
Divakaruni shows her as a smart and kind human with her own human flaw. “For always we’ve been pushed into corners, trivialized, misunderstood, blamed, forgotten – or maligned and used as cautionary tales.” But in Divakruni’s story, even the minor characters come to life.
An attempt to rewrite Ramayana is not new, but with Divakaruni’s writing, you are in for a mellifluous treat because it does not overshadow the other female characters like some others did. We learn of Sunaina, her mother and an able leader, Urmila, her sister and Lakshman’s suffering wife, Surpanakha; Ravan’s sister wronged by two men, and even on Kaikeyi, Ram’s stepmother who is almost always portrayed as the villain, who in this book gets her due interpretation as an accomplished charioteer.
When I read this book, I related it with today’s society where a whisper can wreak havoc on someone. A few whispers and gossip about Sita made ram cast aspersions on his own wife, whom he trusted more than himself, and these double standards exist very much in our society today.
There are different ways of looking at a story and Divakaruni proves that again and again with whatever she writes. She tells us that neither Ram nor Sita are completely right and we are all humans with our fallacies.
The people who really need to read this book are:
1. Husbands, who believe that only the wives should endure
2. Wives, who do not have courage
3. Feminists, who believe that enough is enough
It’s a story that we all know by heart as we have listening to this epic since our childhood. It is a compassionate retelling of the original and Divakaruni, who paints women as strong and relatable in all her works, did it once again by transforming Sita’s image from a meek and almost servile woman to that of a warrior. Divakaruni has been doing a great job giving voices to the female characters over the years and with Sita, she has proved her writing yet again.