Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: I, Rama Age of Seers by Ravi Venu

To  me, stories of Ramayana , are things that take me back to my childhood, 50 years ago. There was no TV, no cable, no DVD's , no Amar Chitra Katha,  only black and white movies,  and what fired my imagination , were the mythological stories told to us, a gaggle of young cousins, by our grandmother,  at bedtime. 

By and by , I was exposed to the best of Marathi literature, a very richly developed resource, and the classic SriRamayana, Srikrishnayan,  KarNaayan and other stories, told in spell binding fashion, by folks like the late Gopal Neelkanth Dandekar, who were the types who personally lived history, making their writing very attractive. These stories were written from the points of view of the main personalities, though not in autobiographical form.

So  when I received this Book, "I, Rama" from the Blogadda Book reviews program, I couldn't wait to start reading.

I was disappointed. 

While the idea of an aged Ram telling his story to his sons,  Hanuman, and his brother Laxman, with the help of Sage Vashishtha's son  was  interesting, there appeared to be a confusion on whether this was a story being told or history being stated.  Sometimes it even looked like a script being written....

To start with, there are too many supplementary characters here, being treated in primary fashion.  Too much detail, that takes the emphasis away from our effort to know the mind of Lord Ram, which is what I expected the book to be about. I thought an inordinate number of pages were spent on King Dasharatha and the going ons  regarding defeating the asuras, with almost step by step fight details, and descriptions of fighting hierarchies starting with gods coming down from the heavens, forts appearing and disappearing, wild attacking animals emanating from attacked forts etc etc.

The only new learning from this book was the character of Kaikeyi, who has been treated as a kind of warrior princess, who is very smart intellectually and who gets her way each time.

Whether it was fooling the king in a man's garb, at her initial encounter, whether it was about  being offered in trade, as queen , against Dashratha helping protect her father's kingdom, whether it was preferring to take a call later on the 2 boons offered to her, or whether it was about getting the boon timing so perfect with regard to her son's "promotion", that today's management gurus would  greatly applaud  .

 It is a bit difficult to visualize her sitting behind a screen playing the dutiful wife and watching the arrival of the sages at court, after having just returned, from not just fighting shoulder to shoulder with Dasharatha against the Asuras, but even saving him with her amazing charioteering , horsemanship  archery, and bravery. 
The book is studded with special effects using laser technology, physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, intergalactic travel, not to mention conversion of fields into matter and matter into fields, with a alacrity that would shame the Higgs Boson.

The narration is in flashback form, but fails to hold your interest.

For various reasons that have to do with  inadequate editing , proofreading, and crowding of too many characters, this book appears to be an attempt at pouring in into   a small space, the huge research possibly done by the author. And the reader loses concentration.

The whole idea of children/elders listening to stories from mythology , was so they learned about and admired the qualities on the main characters, and how they dealt with problems, with a lot of thought, dedication to certain ethical values, and tough decision making .  Listening to mythology gave you a peep into the minds of the various deities, and  warriors. 

The way, one heard such stories, made us demand for more. Whether it was from a story-telling grandmother, a play , a film or something else.

 This book does not fall in that category.

 I delayed picking it up after I had momentarily put it down while reading. It is not a book that will keep you awake.  

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!



  1. One of the gems of Ramayana is the Yoga Vasishta

  2. Ahh... Suranga. I felt the same way as you did when I read and reviewed the book. You might want to read my review too :-)

    1. Sudhajee, I did go and read your review, and I agree with it. I'd ideally love to read a variety of reviews and see what people have to say about this book. Let me check things out ....

  3. Dear Madam,
    With all due respect....but what does mythological 'fiction' mean to you? Lord Ram, before being God, if human, can have all the flaws and emotions of a human. But it is his greatness that elevated him to the level of God - that gave him immortality. What's wrong with this concept?
    I read the book too! And I loved it! I liked Immortals of Meluha too, and am a fan of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings! And I am 21. I enjoy sci-fi and mythology genre. Yeah yeah, my granny used to sit me down with stories from Ramayan and other epics...but honestly it sounded more like moral preaching.
    On the whole, I loved reading this book. You know why? Because, it appeals to the younger generation without sounding like moral 'gyaan'.
    And the language? A little flowery, but I like it. I don't speak that way, but I like reading it.
    Again, we are all entitled to opinions, you have yours, this is mine.
    I seriously see nothing wrong, if the same teachings that you have received from your elders in the form of epics, can be repackaged to appeal to a gadget-drone generation like me.
    An old wine in a new bottle and a little tang in the taste....very appealing.
    Thank you!

    1. Very right what you say .. but then each one has their own opinion, you are putting ur opinion on the book .. and here in the article is another one .. what is so difficult to take..

      and saying that not many have liked this book I have read a few reviews now on this


    2. Anonymous/Shambhavi,

      "......but what does mythological 'fiction' mean to you? Lord Ram, before being God, if human, can have all the flaws and emotions of a human. But it is his greatness that elevated him to the level of God - that gave him immortality. What's wrong with this concept? ...."

      My perception and understanding of Lord Ram, is based on the cultural ethos in which I grew up, what my parents taught me, what I learned in life, and this book does not decide it or alter it. I have no problems with Lord Ram having human flaws and later achieving immortality as a God, after a mountain of hard work. In fact it teaches us ordinary mortals some things.

      What I have issues with is the way the story is presented. I am entitled to write what I feel about it, just as you are entitled to disagree with it and state what you feel.

      They key word here is "Repackaging" which you have used in the comment. Some will like it , some wont. It doesn't alter the greatness of the original.

      There is a place here for everyone.

  4. I quite agree with your take on the book. It's badly written and forces you to suspend belief. You can take a look at my review of the book on my blog.

  5. What is there to suspend the belief? I think the scientific explanations should convince the younger generations to flock temples and more.
    I read the book, it is trying to bridge indian myth to evolution. The author is asking us to believe in God and Rama, the way I see it.
    You are comparing to your old texts while it clearly says its not a retelling and its science fiction. If you just have an open mind and read, the story looks very different. I loved the book from Kaikeyi's entry onwards! Vishwamitra was most convincing, where do u guys find it boring? I finished in 1 sitting, yea its a small book. Printer did not get the right size etc, those I will accept too.

    And, Yes there are some editing flaws, but easily surpassed, nothing indigestible.

    As such, Indian texts are not easy to decipher, how can you explain a 1000 eyed indra or the parents of sapta rishis or who is a prajapati, leave alone the goat headed daksha or agastya balancing the earth?

    This guy is showing an explanation for us to believe in our epics, it should be lauded.

    Younger generation will like it and older generation/art lovers must not get to read and waste their time, they must stick to their old tales.

    One of the reviewer had said clearly that the book is fabulous but has a restricted audience. Looks like you three are not in that audience.