Sita: Warrior of Mithila
Publication: Westland Publications Ltd
Pages: 361 pages
In Sita: Warrior of Mithila, Amish breathes fresh life into the Ram Chandra series with a convincingly reimagined protagonist, but meets with mixed success when it comes to exploring aspects such as morality, law and ethics.
Using what the author has termed a “multi-linear narrative”, Sita: Warrior of Mithila doubles back from where the first book left off, tracing the titular character’s story from infancy. Amish’s ability to retain the essence of a myth while completely reinventing it is one of his strong points, and he does not disappoint. He fleshes out Sita as a warrior, a thinker and an administrator. She is also much more approachable as a character, when compared to the rigidity of the lead in the first book.
Much of the “original” portion in the story revolves around Sita’s family and her experiences prior to her swayamvar — elements that are explored with flair, though not always depth.
So far, a considerable portion of Amish’s works have engaged — directly or indirectly — with issues of religion, spirituality, morality and law. Sita: Warrior of Mithila is no exception. However, perhaps because of its classification as “literary pop”, there is a decided lack of gravitas. The reader is left wanting more depth and nuance instead of dialogues that go “You need to be a liberal…but don’t be a blind and stupid liberal”. The other downside of the author’s chosen narrative form is that it can become repetitive. While efforts have been made to avoid this, the pace, nevertheless, suffers in the latter half of the book, when Sita’s storyline merges with Ram’s. There are also some distractions in the form of a lore about a “detective” (Vyomkesh), quotes on love taken from a 19th century poet and a (very cool) assassin whose method of covering up a murder involves a romantic novel and wine.
Ultimately, the book is an interesting but uneven read. But, it does set expectations high for the next instalment, which will reportedly be told from Raavan’s perspective. That, if done well, could set the foundation for a more complex telling of the events following Sita’s abduction.