Book Review: Asura – Tale of the Vanquished

Cover Page
Credits: Google Books

This was one book that caught me by surprise initially. Not because of its cover or the title, but the story.

For the title, Asura – Tale of the vanquished doesn’t convey much. Rather, it conveys just enough to push the reader’s curiosity up a bit to find out the story. And the story surprised me. Ever since childhood this is probably the first time I saw Ravana being brought into the center as the Ramayana story teller. For the first time, a Ramayana story is told NOT from the point of view of Rama. And I liked every bit of it.

For the hard core Rama bhakts, a word of advice: Read this book with an open mind. It’s not that the Ramayana is being corrected or anything. A different point of view is being presented. That’s it. For those who don’t know much about Ravana apart from his misdeeds and lustful behavior, he was probably one of the first to abolish caste system.

My take away from the book was that if at all in some parallel universe this is what really happened, then Ravana is only shown to be more and more human. A man who makes mistakes, lives through those mistakes, and then makes some more. No way am I justifying his misdeeds. This is not a post about any justification. I can try to give an analogy here. If you have read Devdutt Patnaik’s Myth = Mithya (another book review pending for later), try reading this book with the same mindset as well: Mostly a blank slate, with no prejudices. That would really help and go a long way in appreciating the story told here.

The story telling here is not extra-ordinary but is certainly well thought. The starting of the story and the character development is what I liked the most perhaps. One can easily relate with the 2 main characters telling their stories in turns. And the striking contrast between them as well as the relevant rules of the times. The choice of the characters (Ravana and Bhadra) is interesting. The 2 extremes of the Asura universe are chosen to tell the story. I liked this choice. If one carefully analyzes the characters, a perfect mirror image can be seen. Both in their thinking, their choices, the situations they face and their decisions. The power of choice and the role of fate are important and the same has been highlighted here. The reader is also made aware of the same through the retrospection that each of the character does from time to time.

All in all it was a pleasure to read this book. Looking forward for more such surprises from Anand Neelakantan. I will definitely give his other books a shot.

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Conflicting thoughts – Society

I often hear people telling others to do certain things that are a norm in today’s society, or that are as per the society. I find this rather strange, and odd.

Primarily I think its because the way we think about society has changed over the course of time. Earlier, there used to be a better sense of belonging and togetherness among the individuals in a group or a society. Well, I do not think that is the case any more. Now, people often do not have time to stop and think about their own lives, let alone the lives of others. So then arises the question: Why bother any more about the society? It does not care what we do. Even if it does, it would not be more than a casual conversation among their friends and associates sometimes, continuing for days at the maximum. These days, when the most famous scandals of national importance are forgotten after a week or two, who has the time to think about what you did?

But then a conflicting question comes to my mind: Am I depriving myself from that sense of belonging and acceptance from the society? Its obvious to notice that not just a society but in any group, you are appreciated and accepted provided you follow their rules, no matter how small or large the group is. I am not counting in your near and dear ones, and your family. They are the ones whom you need not explain your every action. They understand you the most, and you already have their acceptance. So you want to pursue a career in research, hmm. “Why research? MBA is the most sought after profession right now no? Why not go for that? I’m sure you may not like it right now, but once you get a management degree, you’ll love it!”. Yeah right, and that’s where all the money lies isn’t it. What about a singer? A musician? Thinking of having your own band?

And these are the BIG questions. Do not forget the small ones: From what clothes you wear to how you eat when in a group. No, I am not suggesting that you wear anything that you think is right (or don’t wear anything at all) or that you eat like you have not eaten in days, obviously there has to be some rationality in what you do but, do I really need to think that hard while I am eating or drinking? Do I need to be that much conscious? You might sometimes hear your elders saying the same things. Don’t do this, don’t do that, etc.

These are an individual’s thoughts though, when I am only thinking about myself. Put yourself in your parents’ or your elder brother’s/sister’s shoes and think: If you were to have a child or a sibling, wouldn’t you want him/her to be accepted in the society? You must have a strong and valid reason to advise them otherwise. Fast forward your life 20 years from now, and there is a high chance that what I write here may seem absurd. It all depends upon you, in the end.

Edit: I wrote this more than 4 years ago. In these 4 years, the Indian outlook has changed a lot. Either that or I have changed. People have become more accepting and accommodating. May be due to the startup boom, but now, risk taking and venturing into new areas is in fashion.

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Create Memories

Most of us, in the hectic life that we have, are so busy, that any such moment that is worth remembering passes away just like that, and we don’t realize it.

It’s important to create memories, which you can recall and re-live later on. Those are the only moments in which you actually live. The meeting that you just finished, the salary cheque that you just received, the day at office that just got over, these don’t last long. A day with your friends, a quiet afternoon at your home, an evening with your loved ones; something that you’ll eagerly want to do again and again. We don’t think upon it usually and we don’t spend too much time thinking about all this (or may be we don’t get time to think about all this). But in the end, that’s what actually counts. That’s what makes you. That’s what makes your life. Nothing else.

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For once Sachin, be selfish

Sachin should get selfish here, real selfish.

This is probably his last world cup. If he has to see the team through, he has to take it upon himself to do everything he possibly can. Don’t play rash shots at the beginning of the batting power play. Don’t take that unnecessary run. Protect your wicket like anything. Don’t expect the guys who come after you to do any good to the score. Just play till the end.

In 1983 it was Kapil Dev who took it upon himself to see India through against Zimbabwe. Not that he did not believe in other players to perform or not to perform. He just didn’t expect anybody to. He wanted to win the world cup, that’s what he did. Now it’s Sachin’s turn. The team has come this far. Take it from here. I wish this to be possible for every player in the Indian team, but it doesn’t look like that currently. For once Sachin, be selfish. It’s a lot to ask, may be. But then if not you God, who else?

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What’s happening in Egypt?

Here’s a link that will give you details regarding what’s happening there.

There were a few things that I noticed, specially after reading this tweet by Kanchan Gupta (Associate Editor – The Pioneer). Egypt has a population of little over 80 million. Major reasons for their retaliation include poor governance, corruption, food inflation, poor economic policies, among other issues. Hmm..all these problems are the bottleneck of the governance system in India as well.

Around 40% of the 80 million plus population in Egypt lives on roughly $2 per day. Egypt’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was 3.1 in 2010. In India also, 40% of the population is Below Poverty Line (BPL), or 45% as this article puts it. It means that 40% of people in India survive on less than $1 per day. Rural India suffers the most due to shortcomings (like corruption, lack of better economic policies, or implementation of the same) in our system. The only difference here is that the BPL number is 40% of a 1 billion plus population. This amount is more than 10 times that of Egypt. In fact, why only rural India, we have a huge no. of people in urban India as well who are dissatisfied with the corruption in the system. Add this no. to the previous 40 percent. India had a CPI of 3.3 in 2010.

Well, these statistics for Egypt and India do say something. Can India ever see such revolution? Obviously not, as this tweet rightly puts it. Besides, no one would any way agree that the situation in India is (or seems) this drastic, isn’t it?

I am not giving any ideas to anybody :).

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