The Liberation of Sita – #Review

Book Title: The Liberation of Sita
Author: Volga

The Liberation of Sita is a collection of four short stories picked from Sita’s life. I’d like to say these are imaginary interactions but then this is mythology and real and imaginary aren’t really pertinent. It is all about how the story is told. This here is a whole new take.

In Volga’s stories Sita meets Surpanaka, Ahalya, Renuka and Urmila – all powerful women from the Ramayan, all wronged by men in different ways, often in the name of dharma, always as a result of patriarchy.

Sita meets them during the course of her sojourn in the jungles, where she spent most of her life.

When she hears her sons Luv and Kush talking about an ugly woman (with no nose and ears) who has a beautiful garden in the forest, she knows it is Surpanakha. She wonders in regret if Ram and Lakshman would have done the same had Surpanakha not been who she was, had they not wanted to provoke Ravana. She goes to meet the demon princess who raises questions on the identity of women, ‘Do women exist only to be used by men to settle they scores?’ she asks.

Then there is Ahalya who refuses to give anyone the right to judge her. ‘Never agree to a trial Sita’, she advises her for trust does not need proof.

There’s Renuka, whose son, Parashuram chopped off her head when her husband, suspected her of infidelity. She tells Sita to free herself from her husband and sons. ‘A woman thinks giving birth to sons is the ultimate goal of her life… but one day they begin to legislate our lives. Why bear such sons?’

Lastly there’s Urmila who shuts herself up after Lakshman leaves to accompany Ram and Sita to the forest. Not in loneliness, she says but in solitude. And in solitude she launches on a journey of self discovery.

These are women who refuse to wallow in self-pity or shed tears for men (or society) who have ostracised them. They choose to remain strong, to give up their families – husband and sons – to not bow down to the expectations of a patriarchal society. Instead they carve out a life of their own choosing and inspire Sita to do the same.

This is a powerful book, although the language isn’t perfect – some bit of it is bound to get lost in translation. However just this once, I was willing to overlook all of that. To truly enjoy this book you need to be familiar with some bit of Indian Mythology. If you do have that background this is a perfect read. The original work in Telugu, must have been better. Even the translation very effectively manages to say what it has to, and so remains a book that must be read.

Last Thought: A must read for those familiar with Indian Mythology, specifically the Ramayan.





A Spot of Bother #Review

Book Title: A Spot of Bother
Author: Mark Haddon

First things first – this Haddon book is nothing like the first one – The Curious Case of a Dog in the Nighttime (which you must read if you haven’t already). I needed to get that out of the way because if you go into it thinking about that one, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. That said, this is a decent enough read.

The story

It tells the story of 57-year-old George Hall and his family. George is a hypochondriac. He is plagued with a spot of eczema and he decides right away that it is life threatening. Meanwhile his wife is having an affair, his daughter Katie, (who has a son from a first marriage) is set to marry a man who the entire family dislikes because he just isn’t classy enough. His son Jamie is gay but he doesn’t want to come out to his family just yet. He is in the middle of a tiff with his boyfriend because Jamie is reluctant to get him to the wedding.

The Review

Haddon has the uncanny ability of getting into the minds of people who are different. He writes about them with amazing clarity. That’s what makes his stories interesting. Because Haddon’s characters are not ‘normal’ – an autistic teen or a hypochondriac, in this case – their worldview is a difficult to comprehend and that’s what makes his books refreshing. During the course of the story one needs to pull oneself out of the narrative periodically, to try to NOT feel like the character in order to understand the character because what he is saying or thinking may not be reliable from what we consider a normal perspective.

Does that make sense?

That’s what I loved about A Spot of Bother. Also the fact that it tells the story from multiple perspectives with George’s being the main voice. The  host of characters, each with their own quirks, their own stories and their own relationships give the book a sweeping family saga kind of feel. Many times through the book you re-evaluate people, change your mind about them, grow to like them or dislike them through the pages.

The narrative flags in bits but the end made up for everything. It left me with a warm feeling and a smile on my face.

Last thought: This one is meant to be read over a vacation at leisure. Don’t be in a hurry to get through it and you might enjoy it.

In Search of the Self #BookBytes -2

For #BookBytes this week, I have here an excerpt from The Liberation of Sita by Volga. This short read, packs quite a feminist punch. In this passage Ahilya talks to Sita, telling her to find her own self.

You means you, nothing else. You are not just the wife of Rama. There is something more in you, something that is your own. No one counsels women to find out what that something more is. If men’s pride is in wealth, or valour, or education, or caste-sect, for women it lies in fidelity, motherhood. No one advises women to transcend that pride. Most often, women don’t realise that they are part of the wider world. They limit themselves to an individual, to a household, to a family’s honour. Conquering the ego becomes the goal of spirituality for men. For women, to nourish that ego and to burn themselves to ashes in it becomes the goal.


Share a #BookByte

If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage that leaps out at you demanding to be shared don’t ignore it. Share it on your blog.

Leave a link to your blogpost in the comments and I’ll drop by and also share it in my next week’s post.

You could use the #BookBytes badge and leave a link to this blogpost, but that’s optional.

Mom’s life #Write Bravely


The Municipality officers had been at work all day pumping the water out of her basement and it was only now that she could go down there. It was a mess, a sad sorry mess. She’d take days to clean this out. She sat down on a stool and pulled the cardboard carton towards her. It came away in a soggy mess. Letters, photographs, slam books  tumbled out.

She picked up a photograph: It was hers, as a teen with her sister, she on her tiptoes because somehow the sister, though, younger had managed to shoot up an inch more than her. Another one at the school Sports Day captured by her dad – she was about 8, a butterfly with blue and pink butter-paper wings. She reached out for another one – she and her best friend at the farewell social at school, barely 15, in their mom’s saris, dressed awkwardly but posing like pros, ‘The world is our runway’, she had captioned it. Those were the days…, she smiled.

Her reverie was broken by a cry of ‘Look what I found!’.

She glanced up reluctantly, unwilling to let go of the memories just yet, to see her six-year-old holding up something dripping wet covered with mud and bits of cardboard. One armed Barbies, half-legged astronauts, cotton oozing teddy bears and assorted crayons and colour pencils lay spilt around.

Her son was holding up something, ‘My favourite dart gun!’ he said wiping it lovingly on his shirt.

Oh Lord no – not that one thought she, putting down her photographs and rushing over to him. That gun had been the cause of a million fights, till one day she had hidden it away among the discarded toys and forgotten about it. And now here it was… again.

Predictably enough his twin jumped at it, ’It’s mine,’
‘No it’s mine, I found it.’
‘But Aunty got it for me.’
‘Yes but then you gave it to me.’
‘So I take it back now.’
‘You cannot take something back once you give it away.’
‘Yes I can,’

She glanced at her photographs then sighed and geared up once again for some serious refreeing. No time for mush in a mom’s life!


Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the last day of the Challenge – Day 7. The prompt for the day was:
A dark and heavy storm suddenly takes over your neighbourhood, dropping 6 feet of water so quickly that the storm drains can’t handle it. The water flooded your street and your basement, ruining many of your things. As you rummage through your stuff, you are filled with memories. Think about your…

Write Tribe

Dear ______ ,


All day today I have struggled to write this letter. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, neither is it about being able to find the words to say what I have to. The trouble this time round is rather strange – I don’t know who I should be writing this letter to. Who is it that made me want to write? Who is it that continues to inspire me?

Should it be my grade I English teacher who told my dad I needed to read storybooks because my English wasn’t up to the mark or my class VII English teacher who taught me to appreciate Shakespeare making me mug up speeches from Merchant of Venice till I could recite them verbatim (I can still reel off My Mind is Tossing on the ocean.. and The quality of mercy is not strained..)?

Should it be Enid Blyton who made me fall in love with talking toys, magical trees and mysterious islands or should it JK Rowling who reminded me that magic wasn’t only for children?

Should it be Georgette Heyer whose style I copied, without even being aware of it, in the first story I ever wrote (and tore up right away) or should it be PG Wodehouse who still appears unwittingly in some of my writing?

Should it be the editor of the daily who picked me for my very first job even though I had no experience or should it be the one who accepted my first story?

Should it be my twin muses who inspired me to begin a blog and then later, pestered me to come with a new story every night for years on end and then listened to them so spellbound that I began to believe a little bit in myself? Or should it be friends who laughed at all the right places when they read my writing?

Should it be my mom, dad and sister who read what I write, come up with ideas when I’m stuck, even vet some of my posts, or should it be my fantastic blogging family that keeps me going day after day with kind words of encouragement?

I shall never know and for that reason this letter shall never be written.


Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the Day 6 prompt:

Write a letter to a person who supported your writing career, whether that be a friend, a family member, a teacher (even one that supported you at a very young age before you knew that it would blossom into a writing career), an author you’ve never met but have been inspired…

Write Tribe

Linking up with Shantala’s #ChattyBlogs.


Of Men, Loves and Passions #WriteBravely

Men, loves passions

“Hello,” said the voice on the phone. “My name is Shah Rukh Khan. I know you never expected a call from me, as famous as I am, but I’ve been given your name as someone who can help me find something I’m looking for.”

‘Yeah yeah yeah and I’m Anushka Sharma, Virat is right here by me would you like to say hello? YOU STUPID IMBECILE!! It’s 3 am for Godssake and prank calls are so 80s YOU JOBLESS FOOL, You have nothing better to do on a Monday morning?’ Brinda erupted.

Now before you get the wrong impression about Brinda, let me tell you that she’s normally a gentle soul, it’s just that she had been provoked beyond measure over this past weekend.

It all began yesterday morning. She was woken up very very rudely yet again by the incessant roaring of a car and the raucous jubilant laughter of her husband. If there’s one thing Brinda treasured passionately (after her teen crush Shah Rukh), it was her Sunday morning sleep.

Her husband Bikram, on the other hand, loved even more passionately, his 1936 Ruby Austin. ‘It’s much more than a car,’ he would say to anyone who cared to listen. The said car had been in Brinda’s family for decades and had been her father’s gift to Bikram. She sometimes thought her husband had agreed to marry her simply because he had fallen deeply irrevocably in love with her father’s Austin.

Come Sunday, way before the sun rose, he would arm himself with a host of cleaning materials, polish and grease and a bunch of soft muslin cloths and get to work on the Austin. He would polish it till it gleamed, then start it up. It would sputter and stutter as noisily as a kettle drum and then with a huge roar it would come alive. And each time it trumpeted to life Bikram would give out a loud proud cheer. He’d rev it up and drive it up and down the long driveway of their bungalow at a royal speed of 20kms per hour, giving out whoops of childlike joy.

Neither her entreaties nor her threats managed to deter him. After an unusually bad fight he’d stop for a week or two and then he’d be back at it again.

Meanwhile Brinda would twist and turn in her bed, stewing in anger, her sleep quite gone. Yesterday morning when Bikram had returned to their room, pleased as punch, twirling his majestic moustache (another thing he was rather proud of) and reached out to give Brinda an expansive hug all he had received for his troubles was an impatient shove that had sent him sprawling on the ground.

She really hadn’t meant to push him but ‘he deserved it’, she told herself when her conscience had dared to open its mouth.

Bikram had collected himself unhurt, except for his ego – which was worse than any physical injury. Talks since then had been suspended between the two, each swearing he/she would make up over his/her dead body.

It was a bad bad night for Brinda because she could never sleep well after an unresolved fight. Bikram’s snores had only made her angrier and now she had had to get up to take this call!

Oh she was fuming!

‘Errr.. hello, ma’am.’ The caller seemed to be rather taken aback at her tirade. ‘Hello this is Shah Rukh Khan, the actor. I’m terribly sorry I didn’t realise it was so late, or should I say so early?’ he ended with a cheeky-apologetic laugh. Oooooh he was good, this guy. The laugh was exactly like SRK’s and he was persistent, thought she, the last vestiges of sleep leaving her. An old friend perhaps, who knew of her continued crush on the actor.

‘You’re Shah Rukh, eh? How come you’re up so early, I know SRK is a true blue night owl.’ Not for nothing had she read up every available trivia on her heart throb of decades.

‘Early morning for some, late night for some – I haven’t gone to bed yet, ma’am,’ he said and there it was again – his characteristic laugh.

This time her heart flipped. That laugh rung so true she had to catch her breath. Could it  really be Shah Rukh? The man of her dreams?

But never in her dreams had he said he needed her help. He had said everything from ‘I love you’ (when she was a teen) to ‘Let’s have an intellectual conversation about Spirituality and Philosophy,’ (when she had entered her forties) but never this.

‘You need my help?’ she said her heartbeat spiking.

‘Well it’s like this I spent my childhood with my maternal grandfather in Mangalore. I presume your grandfather was from there as well?’

‘That’s right but he moved away eons ago,’ she said.

‘Yeah well I have some very happy memories of those days. My most favourite one is of man-to-man conversations with my grand-dad as we drove through long winding roads. While he is gone, the memory remains. The memory and the car. It used to be a gorgeous 1936 Ruby Austin.  I’ve been looking for it for years and years. A contact told me it had belonged to your father. You see it is much more than a car. I was wondering if…..’

Shah Rukh wanted the Austin! Bikram’s Austin! And he was coming here to get it! The thought brought Brinda to her knees and she sank back into a delicious day-dream.

But Bikram …… he would never part with it. The thought intruded on her dream and she laughed out loud at the irony of it. The only two men who mattered in her life, the only two men who she’d dreamed would fight over her, would now be fighting over another.

Edited to add: This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone dead or alive is purely coincidental.


Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the Day 5 prompt:
“Hello,” said the voice on the phone. “My name is __________. I know you never expected a call from me, as famous as I am, but I’ve been given your name as someone who can help me _______.” (Write a story that follows this line.)

Write Tribe

The Bucket List #WriteBravely

The Bucket List

‘Ma,’ where’s my lavender stole? called out Rimjhim.

Rashmi put down the newspaper and looked up. Rimjhim stuck her head out from her room, ‘Ma… please, where is it?’
“In your cupboard, somewhere, I presume,’ said 
Rashmi and picked up the paper again.
‘Really ma this grand ‘Be Independent’ experiment of yours is driving me crazy.’
Rashmi smiled behind the paper and continued to read.

Rimjhim withdrew with an exasperated sigh and rummaged frantically through her cupboard until finally she called out ‘I found it. Thanks for nothing ma.’

Rashmi shook her head and laughed softly at the sarcasm.

‘Ma Vihan and Varun are coming over for dinner tonight,’ said Mohit picking up his bike keys and tiffin box from the table, where the maid, Geeta, had left it for him.
‘You should have told Geeta before she left.’
‘Come on ma, call her please, or tell her when she comes in the evening,’
‘I’m busy today, beta. You have her number. Call her or order in. I will be out all day.’
‘Ma it’ll take two minutes,’
Yup exactly, why don’t you do it rightaway?’
‘Really, ma!! Said Mohit annoyed at her steadfast refusal.

This was unusual!

‘..and here we have a fresh victim of the ‘apna kaam apne aap’ movement. How do you feel Mr Mohit? Empowered, overwhelmed or simply annoyed?’ queried Rimjhim thrusting an imaginary mike at him.
‘This is a mad mad household,’ he muttered brushing her hand away. He looked at his mother again and asked, ‘Are you alright, ma?’ The thought had been plaguing him for some time now. She definitely had not been herself over the last few months. She seemed kind of absent minded, distant, removed from them all.

He put down his bag and sat down beside her.

“Ma, is all well?’

Rimjhim looked up at the serious note that had crept into his voice and edged closer. She had noticed the change in her mom too. It bothered her.
‘Yes ma, what’s up? You’re not helping us these days, you shut yourself in your room for hours and you’ve been going out almost everyday. And who is this Dr Amrita you keep calling up? You’re not going away anywhere, are you?’

Rashmi looked at both of them guilty.

‘Ma,’ Rohit shook her, ‘are you sick?’
‘Are you dying?’ asked Rimjhim. She was close to tears now that the thought had struck her.

‘Oh stop, you two. For goodness sake,’ exclaimed Rashmi and smiled, ‘actually it’s a little bit of both.
‘Stop talking in riddles please ma,’ entreated Rohit.

Rashmi sighed.

‘It’s a bit of a long story and I guess I might as well tell it all. You think you have the patience to hear me out?’ The two nodded mutely, apprehensive of what was about to come.
‘Well, I was always an average girl with average aspirations and I grew up to be an average woman fulfilling each of them in turn.’ She put up her hand when Mohit tried to protest, ‘Let me finish please’, she said, ‘Life has been good. Not remarkable, but good and I’m not complaining.’

‘But then the other day Sunanada passed away. You remember Sunanada Aunty from the 7th floor?, Yeah, so when she passed away I realised how ephemeral life was. I realised that ‘average’ wasn’t good enough, that each of us needs to make his or her life remarkable in whatever way, small or big. I needed to do that for myself.

‘Does it sound silly? I knew it would, which is why I said nothing’, said Rashmi

‘It’s not silly at all’, said Rimjhim, ‘so then…?’

‘So then before I could do any of that I had to make sure you guys would be okay without my continued presence in your lives. So I made out a bucket list that the old me had to complete before I could embark upon my new life.’

‘And look how wonderfully it has turned out. Rohit, you’ve learnt to run the washing machine and figured out how to match your socks, your dad has finally understood that a navy shirt doesn’t go with navy trousers. When he can’t find his glasses he knows now that they’re probably perched on his head, Geeta can cook just the way each of you like your food and even Rimjhim can find clothes from her mess these days,’ she laughed, ‘my bucket list is complete, except for the one last grand finale.’

‘A few weeks back I enrolled in music class. Dr Amrita is my teacher, by the way. She is a doctor, but an academic one not a medical one. She has a doctorate in Music.’

‘I’d thought I’d surprise all of you with my grand performance next week – the last thing on the bucket list – the thing that would finally kick off the old ‘average’ me – and usher in the new me with a whole new bucket list. I want to travel, learn Salsa maybe, take Spanish lessons. I want to make my life remarkable.’ She stopped self-consciously, embarrassed at having got carried away. Darn! It sounded pompous even to her own ears now that she was saying it out loud. She searched for signs of laughter on her children’s faces.

There were none.

Just lots of love for their new remarkable mom. 


Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the Day 4 prompt:

Write a story about a character who finds out that he or she is dying and has been knocking things off his/her bucket list and has finally reached the last item.