Urmila is the silent knight in not so shiny an armor. While Ram and Sita decided to go on exile and find their destiny, Urmila chose to stay back, away from the love of her life just so she could be the glue to the broken family that was left behind in the palace. Kavita portrays Urmila as a practical, witty and most of all, a strong, independent women who in her own light is the hero of the story.
If I had to use a Jim Gordon reference from Batman, The Dark Knight, “Urmila is the hero Ramayan deserved, but not the one it needed at the time. So they let her endure. Because she could take it. Because she wasn’t their hero. She was a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.”
Sita’s sister is a fresh take on Urmila’s life. Urmila comes across as a free willed, spirited individual who valued knowledge and saw life in its right light. This version of the story appealed to me far better than the popular one where it is said that Urmila had gone into a deep slumber for 14 long years so her husband and young prince Lakshmana could fulfill his purpose of serving his righteous elder brother, Ram.
In Ramayana, “Duty” plays the biggest part. Duty towards your parents, your teacher, and your society. Fierce and ever protective of her sister Sita, Urmila goes that extra mile and questions Ram about his duty towards Sita. This for some reason satisfied me simply because I had the same questions when the age-old myth was told a million times through a variety of perspectives and no one ever bothered asking the simple question, “If it was worth it all?”
I had often wondered what had happened on the other side of the story, in the palace once Sita, Ram and Lakshmana had gone off into exile. What did the other two brothers go through? How did the mothers of the four princes manage anything at all with their King long dead and their sons gone? This book has given me a look into the other side of the story and for that, I’m grateful.
What worked for me in the book was Kavita’s way of keeping things simple and not going the long way glorifying the legends. She treats each of her characters as simple humans that had to deal with human struggles and emotions.
I absolutely loved how Urmila or Mila as Lakshmana called her had the courage to deal with her situation with so much grace. Sita may be the ideal wife and the ideal daughter but Urmila is shown as the lioness who is ever so protective of her family. One cannot overlook the way in which the author has managed to let her readers get a deeper glimpse into the various emotions of Lakshmana which are often overlooked. Kavita portrays Lakshman as not just the dutiful brother but also a simple human who is vulnerable.
Another aspect that truly appealed was how Kavita had managed to give us a meaningful glimpse into the lives of the characters like Kaikeyi, Sumitra, Kousalya, Sunaina and Mandavi. These characters like that of Urmila are often neglected and very little is known of the kind of people they were. Kavita has shown how each of these women had constantly tried to stay dutiful and stood by their dharma in spite of their circumstances.
The book could have done with a more attractive cover and maybe some structuring. The time frames in the book revolve extremely fast for a few important events. I understand that this is a work of fiction and not much is said in the traditional works of Ramayana about Urmila which makes it difficult to portray. I was left wanting for more in a few parts of the book especially in the parts where the epic war between Ram and Ravan was happening. Very little has been spoken of the kind of turmoil that the family or Urmila in particular must have been subject to at the time. Also, the ending could have been better and when I say this, I wasn’t expecting a happily ever after. Maybe, I just wanted an ending that genuinely satisfied me, good or bad. The ending was too abrupt for me to realize I was done with the book.
Ramayana is one of those stories that is re told in numerous ways and from innumerable perspectives. You cannot expect a different narrative or any major twist from the traditional tale. This book however, gives you a convincing new perspective. It is a good read and will not disappoint you.
Final Verdict: I have 3 words for the book and the lead character “Bold and Beautiful”