The name Sita is synonymous with the heroine of the Ramayana, and she seems to be regaining a lot of her popularity these days. Which she, undoubtedly, deserves. Lady Sita, in my personal opinion, deserves far more respect and, for a number of things, than she gets.
From the bestselling author of Karna’s Wife, comes this book about Urmila, Sita’s sister and the neglected wife of Lakshman, and one of the most overlooked characters in the Ramayana.
As Sita prepares to go into exile, her younger sisters stay back at the doomed palace of Ayodhya, their smiles, hope and joy wiped away in a single stroke. And through the tears and the tragedy one woman of immense strength and conviction stands apart—Urmila, whose husband, Lakshman, has chosen to accompany his brother Ram to the forest rather than stay with his bride. She could have insisted on joining Lakshman, as did Sita with Ram. But she did not. Why did she agree to be left behind in the palace, waiting for her husband for fourteen painfully long years?
Storytellers haven’t spoken enough about certain women, or even the men for that matter, who sacrificed and endured as much, maybe a little more than the ones who are otherwise sung about. One such character from the Ramayana is Urmila, Lakshman’s wife and Sita’s sister, who was left behind in the darkness of the palace when Ram, Sita, and Lakshman left for their 14-year-long exile.
Kavita Kane’s Sita’s Sister, published by Rupa Publications, is a must-read, especially if the other characters in the Ramayana intrigue you as much as (or like me, more than) the main characters.
I’ve read Kavita Kane’s The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty, which is Satyavati’s story from her perspective, and I found her portrayal of Satyavati beautiful. For those of you who don’t know Satyavati, she was the wife of King Shantanu of Hastinapur, the step-mother of Bhishma Pitamah, and the great-grandmother of the Pandava and Kaurava princes.
Anyway, coming back to Sita’s Sister, Kavita’s charm and writing skills show very well in this book too. Urmila’s character turns about to be such a balance between the predictable and the unpredictable, that one cannot help but fall in love with this book. There are places where Urmila does things that are very cliched and therefore predictable. And there are moments where she does things that filled me with awe and admiration for her.
Like, take a look at the lines below, from the scene where Urmila tells her brother-in-law, Bharat, to punish Manthara, the perpetrator.
“Throw her out, Bharat,” Urmila said strongly. Ram killed Taraka—she was a woman, a monster and so is this old hag sitting by your feet, imploring for mercy. Show her no compassion. She is venom, tainting, polluting and corrupting slowly, superbly and oh so, successfully!” she added wryly.Excerpt from Sita’s Sister by Kavita Kane, published by Rupa Publications
Now, I haven’t heard any stories about Urmila the way I have heard about Sita. But Kavita’s Urmila gives you a perspective life that is important regardless of how known Urmila’s story—it is as impactful if you consider her as a commoner as it is when you think of her as an important character in such a revered epic.
The author also tries to paint a picture of the other women in the story—Sita, Mandavi, Shrutakirti (Urmila’s sister and cousins), Dashratha’s queens Kaushalya, Sumitra, Kaikeyi, and Ram’s sister, Shanta. While some of these portrayals aren’t very conventional, I wouldn’t say they are unconvincing (except for Sita’s maybe). Or maybe, I was convinced easily because I haven’t heard too many stories of them before. I am confused, so maybe you could read this beauty and tell me what you think 😊
All said, this book is a must read because of its beautiful storytelling, convincing character sketches, and a very realistic portrayal. Obviously, a 5/5 for this, without a doubt.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A senior journalist with a career of over two decades, which includes working for Magna publication and DNA, she quit her job as Assistant Editor of Times of India to devote herself as a full time author. A self-styled aficionado of cinema and theatre and sufficiently armed with a post-graduate degree in English Literature and Mass Communication from the University of Pune, the only skill she knows, she candidly confesses, is writing.
Karna’s Wife her debut novel, (2013)was a bestseller. Her second novel – Sita’s Sister (2014) also deals with another enigmatic personality – Urmila, probably the most overlooked character in the Ramayan. Menaka’s Choice(2015) ,another best-seller, is about the famous apsara and her infamous liaison with Vishwamitra the man she was sent to destroy. Lanka’s Princess (2016) is her fourth book based on Ravan’s sister, Surpanakha, the Princess of Lanka who was also its destroyer…
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black cocker spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat.