Skip to main content

Featured Post

The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Book Review: I, Rama

I don’t quite remember which was the first Ramayana I read. I am sure that I had heard many versions of the story long before I read it myself... My mom was (and is) an ardent storyteller, and most of her stories revolve around mythology... and Rama, the obedient, dutiful son who never does anything wrong, is probably the favourite character of most Indian parents. “Look at Rama. Did he ever back answer to his parents? Did he even question his father or step mother when he was told to go into exile? Thats what an ideal child should be like.” I am sure most of you would have heard this dialogue sometime in your life.

Anyway, coming back to the various Ramayanas I have read, I remember reading the Amar Chitra Katha’s version, and later, Rajaji’s Ramayana – which, incidentally, is one of my prized possessions! Over the years, I have picked up many more versions of the story. Valmiki’s epic has many translations; all of which claim to be faithful to the original, but each have their own interesting differences. A translation of Kamban’s Tamil work is something I love reading for the beautiful descriptions. Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas is one book, which finds a special place in our prayer room. I have read the Bhavan Journal’s version of the epic, and also the Penguin’s Handbook to the Ramayan, which has a lot of interesting references to stories I hadn’t heard before. I stumbled across one story told from Ravana’s point of view, and Samhith even has a book called Hanuman’s Ramayan. And then came Ashok Banker with his own version of the story, bringing the age old characters to life with his own inimitable style. Needless to say, I lapped it all up happily!

I was intrigued when I heard that another book was to join the series, this time one, which had an interesting concept – of a story, told in the first person, by the hero – Rama, himself. When an opportunity to review the book came through Blogadda, I jumped at the chance, and entered my name. I received the book a few days back, and here, finally, is my review.

The book begins, rather appropriately, with a prologue describing Mareecha’s arrival at Lanka. Neither Ravana nor Rama are present, but this is the first time Ravana will hear of his adversary, and set out on the path which will ultimately lead to his doom. Considering that the Ramayana is effectively the story of Ravana challenging Rama by the abduction of Sita; and Rama’s eventual triumph, this is indeed the beginning of the story!

As for Rama’s story, it is in the first person, as the title suggests, and he tells his story to his children, Luv and Kush, as well as to Hanuman, and his brothers, the day before the coronation of his heirs. Rama is ready to depart from earth, and before he leaves, he wants his children to know the whole story of his life.

The entire  story is in a flashback mode, sometimes Rama reminiscing about his childhood, with Lakshmana adding some small detail, and sometimes through another voice, like that of his father, Dasaratha, relating the story of his curse, or the sage Vishwamitra, relating the story of the demons. The story told in the first person does succeed in bringing Rama down from the pedestal of God, to a mortal coping with greatness.

As far as the story goes, it sticks to the epic we know so well. There are a few surprises in store, such as the story of Ganga, and of Rama’s birth, which I loved. However, what I really appreciated was the character of Kaikeyi, who has been transformed into a warrior queen, who knows her mind and does not hesitate to do what she needs to, no matter how tough it is for her. It is her character, and hers alone, which stands out through the book.

As for the others, the characterisation of Sita shows promise, and Dasaratha is well etched out in the first half of the book, but all the others seem to be passed over as mere props in the story. And this is where the book loses its lustre.

As to the story itself, the idea of superior beings from another galaxy landing on earth and teaching us some of their skills, helping us along, so to speak, on the road of evolution, is not a new idea. It is one we have heard before, and plenty of times. It is something Samhith would love to read, but I am well past that stage. That said, the author seems to have picked out problematic areas, such as the issue of Kaikeyi’s character, and has devoted a lot of work to solving the problem. However, in the process, he neglects some other aspects of the story, which might have made the story more cohesive.

In a story, which is so well known, what is needed is some amazing writing to bring the characters to life, to make them feel so alive that their every action seems to be happening just at that moment, even though we already know what happens. It is here that the book fails to deliver. The writing is mediocre, and archaic, and fails to grab attention. Usually, with a book like this in my hand, I usually find it hard to keep it down till I have finished, but just the fact that I took two whole days to complete it will tell you that it didn’t succeed in grabbing my attention. 

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


  1. Sounds interesting. I have read a version in Hindi I think where every character is portrayed as human but can't think of the name.

    1. Thanks Mridula!! and that version is new to me.. would love to read that, even in hindi!

  2. Good review, looks interesting read to me!

  3. A good balanced reveiw, Anu. And I liked the way you have written it too.

  4. Hi Anu,

    I just wandered back to wandering mind and saw your book review post. I was more eager to read it because, even I was a part of the same review program.

    I liked your review. Balanced and clear. :)

    Hoping to be more regular visitor to your blog. Take care and have an awesome day ! :)


    1. Thanks, Shyam!! I havent read your review yet! will go straight over to read it!

  5. Nice... been hearing about this book from a few familiar folks... Curious about it...

    1. Thanks Aarti! would love to know your reaction to the book too

  6. Good review, good book also, read it and liked it too. More of the Meluha and Lord of Rings types.
    Writing style is different, the author must have assumed no one knows Ramayana.
    The marketing is not in right space, this seems more like a open mind - younger generation sci fi tale and not for all who expect Rama as a God.
    Plus its only available on flipkart and homeshop18.
    Any way, found it quite a refreshing Rama tale!
    Hope these small issues be corrected for Vol II.

    1. Thanks Kirthika. I read Meluha too,, and Lord of the Rings has been an all time favourite! unfortunately, for me, this book was not as gripping... maybe you are right... it was probably written for those who dont know the Ramayana.... and children who like science fiction... so that they can relate more to Indian mythology... but even then, if only the writing was better, it would work so much better!


Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please leave a comment for me so that I will know you have been here....

Popular posts from this blog

Gokarna Part II – The Five Lingams

We continued our Gokarna trip by visiting four other Shiva temples in the vicinity, all connected to the same story of Gokarna. The story of Gokarna mentions the Mahabaleshwara Lingam as the one brought from Kailas by Ravana, and kept at this place on the ground by Ganesha. (See my earlier post- Gokarna – Pilgrimage and Pleasure). However, the story does not end here. It is believed that, in his anger, Ravana flung aside the materials which covered the lingam- the casket, its lid, the string around the lingam, and the cloth covering it. All these items became lingams as soon as they touched the ground. These four lingams, along with the main Mahabaleshwara lingam are collectively called the ‘ Panchalingams’ . These are: Mahabaleshwara – the main lingam Sajjeshwar – the casket carrying the lingam. This temple is about 35 Kms from Karwar, and is a 2 hour drive from Gokarna. Dhareshwar – the string covering the lingam. This temple is on NH17, about 45 Kms south of Gokarna. Gunavanteshw

The Havelis of Bikaner - A Photo Post

The lanes are narrow , twisting and turning amidst buildings old and new. Crumbling old structures with intricate workmanship stand side by side with art deco buildings, and more modern constructions, which follow no particular style. Autos, bicycles, motorcycles and vans rush past, blowing their horns as loudly as possible, while cows saunter past peacefully, completely unaffected by the noise. In the midst of all this chaos, children play by the side, and women go about their chores, as we explore these by-lanes of Bikaner, and its beautiful Havelis. Facade of one of the Rampuria Havelis

The Power of 8 - The Ashta Dikpalas and Ashta Vasus at Khajuraho

The four cardinal directions form the axis on which a temple is built, and are thus the basis of temple architecture. Leading from them are the eight directions, which are believed to be guarded by the eight guardians, or Ashta Dikpalas . In the temples of Khajuraho, great care has been taken by the sculptors to carve the Ashta Dikpalas on the walls, both inside and outside. They not only guard the temple, but also look over us as we circumambulate the shrine, protecting us by their presence. They are augmented by the Ashta Vasus , celestial beings which represent natural phenomena. Together, they enhance the idea of the temple as cosmos, enfolding within it, all the aspects of nature, both, on earth, as well in space.