Book: Ramayana, A Modern Retelling
Author: Ramesh Menon
It is said that in India you never read the Ramayana or Mahabharata for the first time. As a child you are already exposed to many re-tellings from your parents, aunts, grand parents and passing strangers before you even learn to read. I thought this was a story I was already very familiar with. I only discovered how little I remembered when one afternoon I found myself having to entertain a dear friend’s baby and got done with it in a few minutes.
I started reading Ramesh Menon’s version of Ramayana to refresh my memory and to ensure that I keep other babies I encounter engaged for more than a few minutes. Of course I also want contribute to the child’s moral upliftment, thus continuing at least one grand Indian tradition. Hopefully the parents will be appropriately grateful for my services.
Considering the other books I am reading at the moment, I found this version very refreshing, without any cynicism I had come to expect with writing about Indian mythology (or history, if you will). The author’s attitude towards the text is stated at the beginning - that of Bhakti towards Rama. All through the various retellings in most of it’s history in India, this is also how the text was recieved, with reverence. Menon writes well, with the right amount of translations of Sanskrit terms that doesn’t affect the flow of the text. There are some missing parts that I remember from popular narrative - nothing of Angada’s growing throne of tail, for example. I am assuming that’s to keep the plot tight. I have versions of Kamban’s Ramavataram and Tulisdas’ Ramcharitramanas on my shelf. I don’t have Valmiki’s Ramayanam however. I do hope to get my hands on it some day and more importantly, make some time to explore further this long-beating heart of India.