Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
The Ramayana is a living epic, not dead literature — it is constantly reinvented, re-imagined, reinterpreted by poets, writers, artistes and performers of all genres, not only in India but many other cultures across Asia. And each generation and culture has its own re-interpretation of Ramayana and its characters. Needless to say, these are moulded by the contemporary social fabric and issues.
What happened to Sita? Where did she go? Was Ram fair to the woman he went to war for? How did Sita feel about the devastation? Were Ravana and Kaikeyi really all that evil? What happened for those ten years in Lanka? Is Ram a sheep in wolf’s clothing?
In Samhita Arni’s book, ‘The Missing Queen’ , Ayodhya Shining is modern day India with Ram as its leader. The Washerman is the all powerful Chanakya like figure who keeps the peace at any cost. Lakshman has lost all his youthfulness, and manages Ram’s career. Ayodhya Shining has a darker side to it as well.
When a reporter asks the forbidden question ‘What happened to Sita?’ she feels the whole force of government machinery. She loses her job and disappears as she is thrown into the jail and begins to understand the seamy underbelly of her glorious Ayodhya state.
From Lanka, with its ruined economy and whores, to Videha from where Sita came, the reporter seeks an answer to her question ‘What happened to Sita?’
I liked the premise of the book, and making Ayodhya a modern day country. There are parallels, conscious or unconscious ones with India, its democracy, its leaders and its relationships with the smaller neighbors.
Samhita raises a lot of questions in the framework of this book. Why is history never kind to the women in the epics and is there an alternate story? Is it merely enough to be a good statesman, and yet have someone like Washerman who dictates your moves ? Should a leader be governed in his personal life by the opinions of his subjects/followers ? Are human beings wholly evil or good, or is there a balance between the two?
Does the reporter find Sita? Did Sita have the last laugh?You have to read the book for that!