Can you imagine a Sita who welcomes freedom from the hidebound environs of Raghukul that forest sojourns offer?
Continuing the recent tradition of looking at the past through new prisms comes Devdutt Patnaik’s “Sita” that retells the Ramayan to delineate this new SITA.
Picking from the Valmiki and Tulsi Ramayans, Plus scores of others riddling every nook and corner of India and all the South East Asian Ramayans surviving millennia, Patnaik conjures up a truly free spirited Sita, quite, quite different from the weepy Sita mold countless generations of women have had to cope with since Time Immemorial.
Born off the furrow, taught by the numerous learned persons who partook of her father Janak’s hospitality, Sita’s learning is stunted by the rules that rule in Ayodhya.
Still a virgin, she is quick to insist on accompanying the rule-obedient Ram into exile, that offers a new learning curve, never mind the celibate ascetic she call her husband.
In his own inimitable style, Patnaik draws from far and wide, annotating copiously to draw a surprisingly linear eventful story, striving to justify the stilted Ram while celebrating his new Sita.
She has a mind very much her own, searching, questioning and triumphant in her acknowledgment of herself, rather submerged in Ram, shown up as a creature of rules only.
Sita lives within her own Self, setting her own parameters, and claiming her own space. She is glorious in her free thinking and her fleeing from her hide-bound Ayodhya sasural for the freedom of exile in the forests with Ram; her insistence on staying on at Ashok Vatika till Ram came for her to avenge his honor; she understand where he then comes from when he tells her to go to either Lakshman, Vibhishan or Sugriv.
She even comes to accept and actually enjoy the banishment from Ayodhya as freedom once more from the petty royalty of Ayodhya’s Raghukul; perhaps the chance to raise her boys sturdy without the Raghukul malaise?
Finally comes her decision to let the hidebound Ram stew in his own rules while she makes her grandest exit yet – one which makes her an all time heroine.
For all Ram’s philosophizing, it is Sita who comes through as a truly spirited woman who has mastered to perfection, the art of internalizing her own space, her needs and her happiness. She is happy to be a woman. In fact, she rejoices in all its aspects, cooking, healing, decorating, using all the feminine skills; perhaps choosing, nay willfully relishing the opportunities to absent herself from the Rules that her husband chooses to cling to obdurately.
Rules force Ram first to sacrifice his throne and his father’s life. Years later, his wife to his notion of the demands of kingship. And finally, his sense of right and wrong --- all to uphold the rules of his clan. Sad but True.
Bereft of all support, Father, Mother, Wife, Brother and Bhakt, he is left with no option but to end his lonely life in the Saryu.
What a waste of LIFE! Maryaada Purshottam, anyone?
Hope this does not scare away male refers .... there is plenty for them too in this mind-blowing book.