This is a tale that we know by heart a righteous prince getting married to a lovely princess of Mithila, the exile, the war, the coronation, the insult, and the tragic end. This story is always heart-wrenching, no matter how many times it’s reiterated or re-imagined.
While the outline of the tale remains the same, there are many unsung heroes who remain unnamed and their feelings that remain undescribed. And as the name itself says, Ramayana is a one-sided story which blurs the role of women in the tale. What if Sita is not happy with this one-sided narrative and wants the world to know her side of the story as well? With this premise begins the wonderful journey of a Sitayan – The Forest of Enchantments.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is known for giving strong voice to the women characters and that remains the same with her latest book as well. The Forest of Enchantments also comes as a subtle reminder that says strength is not just physical; it comes in various forms. There is strength in patience, there is strength in the undeterred faith, there is strength in standing up for the loved ones, and there is strength in choosing the right path… while going a little easy on principles would skip all trouble. Oh, how the author weaves magic with words!
The story begins with the great sage Valmiki handing out the Ramayana that he has been composing for decades. Sita goes through the whole epic and is, surprisingly, left dissatisfied for not having any evocation of Sita’s despair. When Valmiki says that he has written what the divine vision has showed him, Sita’s reply to that is – “It must have been a God that brought it to you, then, not a goddess”. That’s when the Maharshi suggests Sita to write her own story, a Sitayan.
Sitayan is not just about Sita but about all those women whose stories have been pushed into some corner – forgotten and unattended. Sita brings them all into the limelight. Right from her sisters Urmila, Mandavi, Shrutakriti, and Ram’s sister Shanta to Surpanakha and Trijata, everybody finds their voice in this Sitayan.
By the time readers get to the end of The Forest of Enchantments, they are left with nothing but peace. That peace which only comes after completing a long-pending duty… it’s like a heavy weight is lifted off one’s chest. Knowing the story of all these women from an epic that we have heard a zillion times gives a closure that we didn’t know we even needed.
The book is so pure and a must-read for everybody, especially for all the women out there. There is this sense of pride that only a woman could experience from this story.
Pick this book up, like, right now! For a story as old as hills, this retelling is as fresh summer’s grass.
Title: Forest of Enchantments
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Publication: Harper Collins
Price: Rs 599