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This review is part of the BlogAdda Book Review Program

Ramayana: The Game of Life – Book 2 – Shattered Dreams constitutes the book sequel to the bestseller Rise of the Sun Prince, from the Ramayana: The Game of Life book series authored by Shubha Vilas. This second volume remains however and interesting read as a standalone story and will therefore be reviewed without taking much into account the first volume in the series, for which it should only be mentioned that it ends with the wedding of Rama and Sita.

Book 2 – Shattered Dreams focuses on the time leading from Rama’s coronation as a ruler of Ayodhya to his exile, offering rich character portraits of all parties involved in the story: namely Dasaratha, Sita, Kaykeyi and Manthara who are all essential to this episode in the life of Rama.

Despite being rich in cultural references, which might make some elements a tad less approachable for readers not acquainted with India or the Ramayana epic at all, the book not only serves an entertaining purpose but also seeks to educate and inspire spiritual reflection in anyone who lays hands on it. One must applaud Shubha Vilas for attempting to make an ancient epic accessible to anyone who would be keen to learn more about the story or its inspirational content, such as how to face difficult times with wisdom, how to maintain values such as gratitude and dedication to our elders or how to handle the complexity of human relationships.

Life lessons are announced in almost each chapter title, making it easy for readers to go back to those parts of the book that have particularly inspired them. Shubha Vilas is indeed passionate and dedicated to make the age-old Ramayana relevant today and rendering it as a tool that is useful to navigate the numerous paths of our lives. As a result, tiny pearls of wisdom appear as parallel footnotes or what I would call “reflection text” throughout the book, seeking to interpret the events of the epic.

This said, be warned. Ramayana: The Game of Life is a spiritual book series and as such pledges allegiance to religious and ancient values that might therefore not always be interpreted in a manner that is relatable to one and all in modern day life. Shattered Dreams, for example, despite its reader-friendliness and deft interpretation of the original text of the Ramayana, is not a scholarly study that analyzes how much we have changed since the Ramayana was written and whether modern day values can still find an echo in the marvelous epic.

Take for example the reflection text on page 169, titled “Can Negative Emotions Be Tools to Display Positive Love?” which analyzes a wife’s values and her duties to her husband, taking Sita as an example. The author limits his interpretation purely to what was intended in the original text of the Ramayana without analyzing how this could be applicable to changing and modern day husband-wife relationships in India or throughout the world. A self-confident wife as Sita, says Vilas, is said to have four roles: To compliment her husband, to complement her husband, to care for him and to correct him when he deviates from dharma. She should not express negative emotions unless she has mastered these four roles. This interpretation might have been even richer if it had gone a simple notch beyond, making the reader ponder upon whether a husband has the same duties to his wife than those enunciated for Sita (a wife). In my very humble opinion, it might have brought a much more progressive tinge to the text that might be necessary to be even more relevant today.      

Similarly, on page 335 the author says “Are women respected and taken care of? Respect toward them is the root of all the good that happens in society and disrespect toward them is the root of all evil in society”. Even though I could not agree more with the principle, in modern day India I would have loved to see the reflection go a bit further: What does it exactly mean to “respect women and take care of them” in today’s context? Does it mean to allow women to thrive as human beings, no matter if they wear jeans and use a mobile phone? Does it mean to “protect” them, as conceptualized by some men who wish to keep women covered and at home? What could this mean today?

The author’s narration is eloquent, accessible and one can easily see the relationship between the plot of an Indian epic and the influence this literature has had on modern-day storytelling in India, namely in television series and cinema where events roll with significant pauses here and there to familiarize the audience with the workings of each character’s emotions. Feelings are indeed a crucial component in the Ramayana: The Game of Life series, and Shattered Dreams is not an exception.

To round it up, I would recommend reading Shattered Dreams to understand the original value of the text. Readers may take the inspirational interpretations and advice that they find relatable but I would advice making an effort to take your reflection beyond what is provided in the book. Dare to be even a bit more progressive in your interpretation and you just may turn some pages into a little personal gem you want to go back to for your own reference.

Ramayana: The Game of Life – Book 2 – Shattered Dreams
Author: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Genre: Fiction / Inspirational

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