Our pre-teen reviewer Aditi Amritesh gives the feminist retelling of the Ramayana, seen from the perspective of Sita’s choices, four stars out of five. The book The Girl Who Chose, by Devdutt Pattanaik, has been published by Puffin Books India.
There are few versions of the Ramayana that have been specially created for young people and fewer still among those are really good reads. Usually, the Ramayana for children is told in a very direct, sometimes boring manner and almost always as a tale glorifying the righteous protagonist Ram and deriding the villainous Ravana. Very less emphasis goes into detailed portrayal or capturing the deep emotions of the other characters of this story, probably the only exception being Hanuman.
However, ‘The Girl Who Chose’ by Devdutt Pattanaik is different because it presents the Ramayana from an absolutely fresh perspective, that of Sita (wife of Ram and the ‘damsel in distress’ of the story) and how the unique choices she made contribute to the twists and turns of this epic tale.
I had always heard that Indian mythology as a genre is synonymous with Devdutt Pattanaik and reading this book actually confirmed this. It is interesting to know that Pattanaik is actually a medical doctor who chose to follow his heart and become a writer. Only someone with sound subject knowledge, interesting storytelling and beautiful art skills such as Devdutt Pattanaik could put a much retold story as the Ramayana in the limelight again.
‘The Girl Who Chose’ opens with an introduction to the Ramayana for the young reader and explains how this version is different from other versions of the epic. The whole story progresses systematically, while describing the choices Sita made. Such episodes receive a mere mention in other versions of the Ramayana. In this book, however, Devdutt Pattanaik effortlessly convinces his young readers that it is Sita because of whom the Ramayana is what we know it to be. For example, the episode of Sita crossing the Lakshman Rekha (protected boundary) is generally told matter-of-factly but in this book we realise that had Sita not crossed the line, Ram wouldn’t have raised an army and travelled to Sri Lanka to fight a war and rescue her. Alongside Sita’s choices, facts about the Ramayana’s history, how the story changes in different local versions and other interesting insights are also mentioned in ‘The Girl Who Chose’. These enrich the story and give the reader new points to talk and think about. Sita is shown as a pivotal character in this story and through this lens of the Ramayana, we come to understand that all our actions have consequences and we must accept them with grace.
‘The Girl Who Chose’ is a thought-provoking book from one of the world’s best Hindu mythology authors that will engage all age groups. Young people will love the amazing stories and older people will enjoy seeing this unique new worldview of an ancient tale. The lessons this book delivers are necessary life values. I recommend this book to both people who love mythology and those who are new to the genre.
Overall, I liked this book because of its simple concept, enlightening message, brand-new perspective and captivating illustrations. Read it, I’m sure you’ll like it too.
Rating: 4 stars