Author : Ravi Venu
Publisher : Cratus Media
ISBN : 978-0615582504
'I, Rama' by Ravi Venu is retelling of the epic Ramayana in the voice of the central character - Rama, himself. So it is a first person account of how events unfolded, how history got written and how his name Rama became synonymous to that of the perfect being - the almighty. The first volume of this trilogy begins from the time when Rama is in his post-prime years and in his reflective mood begins to narrate the story of his life to his children, brothers and friends. Rama knows that the time is fast approaching when his act on Earth is coming to an end and he would be reunited with his better half soon.
The story is well known to almost all the readers already so I am not going into the story here. I would rather focus on what is it that this book offers which is unique. Yes, there are some unique points.
Through his writing, Ravi Venu has managed to slice through the awe factor surrounding the character of Rama and has attempted to bring him closer to the readers. It’s a wonderful attempt to bridge the seemingly unfathomable gap between Nara and Narayana, in order to make the character more reachable, relatable and relevant. Rama is portrayed as a human prince experiencing the complex human emotions who does not find it inappropriate verbalizing them too - "Clearly, human life was not easy, peppered with bonds of love, laced with a tug of war between trust and vanity."
Some may argue that it is blasphemy meddling with the epic but for me it was reassuring to see God going through similar human emotions as we all humans do every single moment of our lives - apprehensions, self doubts, love, affection and likes of those.
So I would say it is a clever way of approaching an epic and subtly conveying the message that whether it is Nara or Narayana, every one comes on Earth to fulfill some preordained goals in the bigger divine scheme, so must work sincerely towards furnishing those duties while in that role.
There are much more details on the lives of the seers (as the title of the story aptly mentions) - the clan guru Vashista, guru Vishwamitra and guru Parasurama. The author has done serious research on the stories of these sages. There is a significant portion of book devoted to Rishi Vishwamitra's confessions about his own life and the time when he was besotted with Meneka - the celestial dancer. Again a great way to bring home the point that no one, not even the great prophets could be immune to human emotions and perhaps there is no need to be immune to the same when in human form.
Guru Vishwamitha's teachings on essence of life and universal connect make for an interesting read.
The author has taken the liberty to redefined some of the characters in the book. I specifically liked the way character of Kaikeyi is sketched, not making her to be an evil person, rather she is portrayed as an extremely intelligent warrior queen with fine acumen for politics and warfare. And Sita is not presented as a weak follower either. She is characterized as a multifaceted person who is a brilliant cook, a visionary, a philanthropist, a well read person and well acquainted with the workings of kingdoms. Interestingly Meneka's character takes a completely unique and unimaginable turn too.
Ravi Venu intelligently weaves the contemporary scientific concepts in the narration to arouse the interest of those who look for logic in mythology. The terms like inter-galactic travel, energy conversions, astral world, portals from other galaxies for travelling to Earth and vice versa, find their mention here and there. I would say this is a clever trick to woo the readers with scientific minds to read this book too.
The narrative is fast paced and interesting. Part I ends when Rama accepts his destiny and gets ready to follow his line of duty to take on Ravana in his territory.
I firmly believe that the way any story (epic or otherwise) is understood, analyzed and presented has a lot to do with a myriad of factors - the time, and the mindset, customs and culture of that time. So when we experience metamorphosis of our society with time, perhaps redefining mythology is not wrong either and the manner in which Ravi handles the above mentioned variations in his book is almost like taking a firm step towards that initiative.
Overall, I am enjoying how various thinking minds are working towards appreciating, comprehending, redefining and presenting the grand sagas with their unique fresh perspectives.
However, I would have preferred if there were more of Rama's observations, perceptions and interpretations in the narrative than the story itself which we all are well versed with.
There are a few editing mistakes too, just a few, but sufficient to go unnoticed.