04 August, 2014

#BookReview :: The Vigil by Sarah Joseph

The Ramayana as seen by one of its peripheral characters, Angadan
Most writers favour Raman in their interpretation of Valmiki’s original poem narrating the story of the epic battle between the virtuous hero and his nemesis, Ravanan. But this novel is about the turbulent journey of Angadan, who believes that Raman killed his father Vali against all principles of dharma. Angadan is acutely aware of the silent sufferings of women which find no expression in the Ramayana. In his view, Ram’s act of forcing his wife to undergo the fire-ordeal in the name of raja dharma is against all sense of justice and fair play embedded in the human heart. In this novel, Angadan is the solitary thinker who is able to see what the others are blind to or choose to ignore.
In The Vigil, the familiar rhythm of the original poem is disturbed by the touch of Angadan’s ascetic touch. It is a new beginning, new path, a new way of understanding the grand old story.


Another mythological retelling – you might think, but this one is different from the others in the sense that this time round the tale is being told from a person who had a minor role to play when Ramayana is told from Ram’s point of view. Do you remember Angad from Ramayana? Yes well, it is time for us to see things from his point of view.

Anged or Angadan, as he is referred to in this novel, has been an onlooker all his life. When Sugrivan declares the death of Vali, he takes over the thrown for himself only for Vali to return and humiliate him. Still not deterred, Sugrivan approaches Raman to help him win the thrown back resulting in Vali’s death and his final ascension to the throne. Angadan, is used to his family’s way of twisting dharma to suit their own needs and purpose, watches by as the drama unfolds. He wants revenge from the wrong-doer and how does he go about it?

By now we all know that Ramayana is a  one sided story, told from the winner’s point of view painting Raman as the ‘hero’ and that a lot of the stories were twisted to show him in the light while at times hiding what is right and true. Not everyone Raman came up against and defeated were villains and nor did Raman always follow the right path. What is astonishing about this book is Angadan’s feelings that perpetually highlights this fact. His observations and conclusions bring forth another point of view to see the same characters and paint them in another light. His sense of right and wrong is highly developed and he sees the injustices done towards the women in the story.

Wonderfully written and translated, this book is a gem that needs to be read by all, especially women.







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