Wednesday, September 7, 2016

#BookReview: The Girl Who Chose: A New Way of Narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik

On the jacket:

‘You are bound by rules, but not I. I am free to choose.'
Two thousand years ago, the poet-sage Valmiki wrote the Ramayana. It is the tale of Ram, the sun-prince of Ayodhya, who is obliged to follow family rules and so makes no choices. And of Ravana, king of Lanka, who does not respect anybody’s rules or other people’s choices.
Over the centuries, hundreds have retold the tale in different languages, adding new twists and turns. But few have noticed that the tale always depends on the five choices made by Sita.

What were Sita’s five choices?

India’s favourite mythologist brings you this charmingly illustrated retelling of the Ramayana that is sure to empower and entertain a new generation readers.


The Girl Who Chose is an adaptation of The Ramayana, easy for children to understand. I remember being introduced to the mythology through a book with pictures and cartoon like dialogies written and my father used to read it out to me. I'd made him read it to me so many times that I could tell the story myself just by looking at the pictures. I must have been at the most, 3, then. Later, I'd read the grownup version of the story. Never in between. Never as a pre-teen or a teen when I could actually understand the story better because growing up, we didn't have such luxuries. I am quiet envious that children these days have so many options. The Girl Who Chose is simply written and covers almost all of the story's important parts. The illustrations make it more interesting to read and relate to. However, what makes the book a must read for every youngster is how, Pattanaik has not really written his own take of the mythology, but actually told the tale as it is known. He has also included tidbits and information about different forms of the story and good to know facts about them. Lastly, the book tells the story from Sita's point of view. Rather this is Sita's Ramayana. She is the hero, she is the protagonist. Unlike how we have been reading the story as Ram's story, here we have this story for kids, which tells them of Sita's contribution to Ram's life and the choices she made. She tells Ram, "You are bound by rules, but not I. I am free to choose." And, choose she does. From choosing to accompany Ram to the forest for 14 years, to crossing the Laksham-Rekha so that she can give alms to the saint, to waiting for Ram to come rescue her and not letting Hanuman do the same, choosing to go back to Ayodhya after her rescued her from Ravana and lastly, by refusing to return to Ayodhya, the place where a person's reputation mattered more than anything else, she made her five choices. Each individual choice is a lesson for every child and they have so much to learn from Sita on how to have a strong integrity.

Rating: *****/5

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