New Delhi: The docile and soft Sita of Ramayana may not be a role model for most women today, however, author Samhita Arni in a new graphic novel has brought out the bolder colours of the epic character.
"Sita's Ramayana," a vivid book which retells the ancient Indian epic through illustrations in Bengal's folk art form of Patua, has Sita voicing out her turbulent life, her anger on Rama and various such emotions that have been underplayed in most of the 'sanitised' depictions of the Ramayana.
Arni, who found international acclaim at the age of 12 with her book "The Mahabharatha: A Child's View," collaborated with Patua artist Moyna Chitrakar to portray a Sita that the current generation could identify with. "The book came with the feeling that the kind of Ramayana that I grew up with is where Ram and Sita are like ideal characters, can't really identify with them but are held up as role models superficially.
"Sita's Ramayana comes from folk stories and versions which were sidelined and where we saw a very different Sita, one who has a strong voice, a voice articulating the kind of tragedy that befalls on her," says Arni.
The author was in the capital for the fourth edition of "Bookaroo" book festival which was held in Delhi from November 25 to 27.
Arni's interest in mythology began at a tender age of four with her grandmother s tales and grew further with time spent in Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand. Her exposure to different cultures also gave her an insight into the varying forms of Ramayana across the world.
"There's a wonderful poem that's written on a wall of a Thai temple where Ravana confesses his love to Sita and how he knows his love will kill and destroy him and yet he loves her. I think it s quite beautiful and creates a different image of these characters and also different image of love," she says.
The 27-year-old writer disagrees with Delhi University's decision to withdraw A K Ramanujan's essay on Ramayana from the history syllabus.
"You should not hinder knowledge and should not blinker yourself. Education is for the sake of expanding knowledge. I don't think we should restrict or prohibit it in anyway because that becomes censorship.
"Obviously, you can disagree with Ramanujan's essay, you can have a conversation about it, you might not like it but that should not stop it from being out there. Different versions of Ramayan are part of our heritage, we should celebrate it rather than push it under the carpet," she says.
Arni, whose book has made it to the New York s best seller, featured in the fourth "Bookaroo" book festival that was held in the national capital from November 25 to 27. Speaking of her experience at the festival, Arni says, "Although my session at the festival was for 12-16 years of age group, children as young as 8 years old had joined. The book is not restricted to any age group or language due to the visual treatment of the subject." Her next book, she says would also be based on the Ramayan but in the setting of 21st century and as a fictional thriller.