My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is Narayan's narration of the famous Indian Epic, Ramayana. It follows Valmiki's script, instead of the Kamban, that I thought, I would expect from the South Indian author.
The introduction gives the details of the Ramanand Sagar's Television series and how India stood still when Ramayan was telecast on weekends. The story is well know, but the best part of this book are in the details.
I liked the chapter on Vali and Sugreeva, wherein the author does not mince words and shares about the ethical lapse of Rama. That was a difficult chapter in Ramayana. Rama tries to help Sugreeva to fight against his brother Vali. He kills Vali by hiding. Rama being a warrior, is supposed to fight straight, and being righteous person, who is supposed to not harm anyone unnecessarily, forgoes both in this episode. Vali questions him about this. And Rama rationalizes that Vali is not a sub-human, Monkey, but a higher form since he possesses the judgement skills of Right vs Wrong, and since Vali choose the Wrong approaches, when knowing what was Right, he had to meet with this fate. Also, by having killed by Rama, Vali is elevated to higher form in his death.
Other mistakes of Rama are explained as a consequence of Rama forgetting his inherent divinity, making mistakes as a human, and needed constant reminders from gods.
This book is action packed, has good stories, morals, stories of ethical dilemmas and is entertaining. The author does a very good job of maintaining balance of religious piety and story telling in this book.