Monday, June 29, 2015

Book review - Scion of Ikshvaku

Scion of Ikshvaku is the first book of Ram Chandra Series written by Amish Tripathi, an Author from India.

I got my kindle edition on
Hardcover and paperback are available in India on
Amazon did not sponsor this review.

In 376 pages, Amish carries his readers on a journey of adventure, romance and morals. All characters and their relationships in the book are taken from the Indian Epic Ramayana. The book, so far as the story progresses, meticulously covers all known characters from Ramayana giving them a unique personality, style and nature. Amish has been careful not to replicate the Epic but write his own story. This makes it intriguing and exiting to look at our favourite childhood heroes in a different yet delightful light. The imagination and care that went into this work of fiction is exemplary.

In the epic Ramayana, Sita is said to have lifted the Shiva Dhanush with her little finger when she was a mere girl, after which there is no mention of any heroic acts. Amish however gives an interesting personality to Sita. She is the prime minister of Mithila, a fierce warrior and a law abiding ruler to a fault. Amish's portrayal of Sita rings truer than the epic Sita I have known all my life through children's books, grandma's stories and movies. In this book, Ram being Ekapatni Vrat is more about finding the ideal mate and being devoted to her and less about Ram's own magnanimity during the time polygamy not only flourished but was politically favoured. It is also about his own ethics and respect for his partner as his mate and guide, who he finds in Sita.

Sita is said to have spied Ram even before the Swyamvar through a window in her room located just above the royal entrance. Amish elaborately describes Mithila, the houses, gardens, the surrounding walls, moat and the lake. He created a structure called the bees quarter which reminds one of Sita's window but serves a completely different yet interesting purpose in the narrative.

There is no mysticism or magic, no reference to superpowers of either rushis or heroes which keeps the work real. Narratives of Lakshman getting hurt riding a horse at night, Bharat falling in love, Ram and Lakshman eating ripe mangoes, Ram disciplining his younger brother, brothers teasing each other, playfully punching each other, occasionally being wary of each other keep the novel amusing and characters humane. References to paint pealing off of the ceiling and golden armrests being worn, makes the imagination of declining wealth and prosperity vivid.

Pay attention and you will see the author also alludes  to vaccines and health drinks at one point. I will not spoil the plot for you but once you get there, you will know what I am thinking about right now.

Ram and Bharat share a goal, that of constructing a society of equality, openness and one that is free of crime and exploitation. The paths they choose to achieve that end, though, are diametric. Sita is seen to agree with some of the premises of Bharat while having an independent line of thought. The dream society of Sita and Bharat coupled with Ram's idea of mass producing Somras reminds me of "A brave new World" by Aldous Huxley. It along with the story of Roshni's tragic death and the punishment meted out to the culprits gives an insight into the writer's own ideas of perfection and necessity for education and enlightenment of all children of the country. On a personal note, it warms my heart to know a person, albeit through his book, who, like me believes that education is the master key.

In describing Ekam as the God that does not pick sides, Amish gives undertones of religious tolerance and necessity of harmony amongst various classes of society to the novel.

The work is sprinkled with Sanskrit quotes, and Hindi and Bengali references for relationships like brother, mother, teacher and stepmother. While interspersing the work with Sanskrit quotes and their translations raises the book from being a mere novel to a work of insight into ancient wisdom, usage of Hindi and Bengali addresses may not have been necessary. To a foreign reader however, it might feel exotic.

One thing I did not feel good about was the modern usage. Amish Tripathi never actually used the word "kidding" but you will find many other phrases that are contemporary. Some examples are "take a hike", "what the hell", "I'm not a fan", "dammit".

I did not particularly like the usage of the words "screamed" and "shouted" to convey angry deliveries, orders or to describe intonations. I am myself at loss wondering what other word or expression might have been used but screamed does not sound right.

I read the book in less than 10 hours breaking, of course, for life! It is a great read. Having said that, I think it is time the bestselling author up his game and lead his readers through trails of forgotten beauty of language along with history.

About the Author (Source
Forbes Magazine has listed Amish amongst the 100 most influential celebrities in India, three years in a row. He has also received the Society Young Achievers Award for literature in 2013, Man of the Year by Radio City, Communicator of the Year by PR Council of India and Pride of India award (Literature). Amish was also selected as an Eisenhower Fellow, a prestigious American programme for outstanding leaders from around the world.

Background image sourced from Spellbook 03 HD Pictures