Thursday, 30 November 2017

Sita: Warrior of Mithila by Amish Tripathi – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘India is beset with divisions, resentment, and poverty. The people hate their rulers. They despise their corrupt and selfish elite. Chaos is just one spark away. Outsiders exploit these divisions. Raavan, the demon king of Lanka, grows increasingly powerful, sinking his fangs deeper into the hapless Sapt Sindhu.

Two powerful tribes, the protectors of the divine land of India, decide that enough is enough. A saviour is needed. They begin their search.

An abandoned baby is found in a field. Protected by a vulture from a pack of murderous wolves. She is adopted by the ruler of Mithila, a powerless kingdom, ignored by all. Nobody believes this child will amount to much. But they are wrong. For she is no ordinary girl. She is Sita.’

This is the second book in the Ram Chandra Series of Amish Tripathi. However, this book is slightly different from the more famous Shiva Trilogy of the author wherein, the subsequent book picks up exactly from the point where the previous books left off. While the first book unfolded the character of Ram, this book focuses on Sita, the Princess of Mithila.

King Janak and Queen Sunaina come across a vulture defending a little girl from a pack of wolves and adopt her as the Princess of Mithila, a small kingdom in the east of Indian sub-continent. She grows up to be a strong young girl, taking interest in combat and horse riding. Mithila is a kingdom facing acute financial crisis and completely dependent on the Kingdom of Sanskhaya, ruled by Janak’s brother. However, a confrontation between Sita and her uncle over the unreasonable terms he proposed to Mithila changes the destiny of her kingdom and herself, as she is sent away for studies.

Sita’s growth was brought out well, a highly pragmatic individual who does what she believes is right and agrees to something only if she is convinced about it, even if it is from her teacher. This is often shown when she does not hesitate to speak her mind even in front of highly respected Maharishis such as Vashishta or Vishwamitra. There was also political unrest – ever since the defeat of the Ayodhyan Empire at the hands of the Lankan demon king Raavan and the trade sanctions thereon, the people are looking for a saviour who will save them from the menace of Raavan. However, the ones entrusted with the responsibility to find the saviour, have their own interests to look into and have a dislike for each other. Amongst this existing turmoil, Sita’s skills as the Prime Minister of Mithila is brought out where she improves law and order, builds new houses to increase the standard of living among various other things while also looking out for securing larger interests while going out on diplomatic missions as the Prime Minister.

I have always been reviewing this story as something totally distinct from Ramayan despite the novels being based on the book and thus I wouldn’t comment on the deviations thereon. However, I can’t help but notice a few things. For one, I am tired of Amish trying to milk from the populist sentiment going on in India at the time of the release of his books – he did in the first book, The Scion of Ikshvaku (click here forreview). He did it again here – for instance, there was a reference to surgical strike drawing parallel to India’s cross border military operations during September 2016 (click here for more details). There was more, wherein, there was a part in the story dedicated to Jallikattu – a bull taming sport in Tamil Nadu, southern India, where there were massive protests against a ban on the sport in the state of Tamil Nadu during January 2017 (click here for more details). He went on to describe how the sport was far superior to similar sports played in ‘far away foreign lands’, an open reference to the Spanish bull fighting sport – and similar arguments were used by proponents of the sport in Tamil Nadu which the author has merely reflected in the book. I was tempted to do some research whilst reading those sections and I found that the story, according the author was in 4500 BC whereas, neither Spanish bull fighting nor Jallikattu are that old. Of course, there is also the author trying to pander to the overall Indian nationalist sentiment at present by mentioning the word India at every possible opportunity (which was not the case with Shiva Trilogy) and of course, the trademark catchphrase, wherein, Sita was entrusted to ‘Make India Great Again’ (everyone knows that stupid tagline of the current office bearer of The President of the United States of America).

 I would say that I would laud the author for choosing a different format to present the new series (that is dedicating a separate book to build the main characters) and also the way in which Sita’s character was built. But the philosophical discussions, I would say that he was at it again with his ‘masculine thought’ and ‘feminine thought’; and what I could understand by it was that by the former, he meant conservative ideas and by the latter, he meant liberalism / centre-left ideas – he really need not have associated any gender to these.

To conclude, I would say that this novel did enough to keep me gripped but then, was not free from flaws, and I would have really liked if he had just altogether avoided the populist references, especially where some of them had no relevance to the story. I would award the book a rating of six on ten.

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,

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