By Manju Gupta
Uttar Katha by Pratibha Saksena, Antarbharti Prakashan, 115 pp, Rs.100.00
This is a thin volume in which sketches are presented of characters drawn from the Ramayana. One of the most interesting characters shown is that of Ravana who despite having some exceptional qualities, because of one trait in his character, becomes a subject for anger and rejection. It is undeniable that if he had not the trait of eyeing somebody else'swife like Sita and decamping with her, then not only Ravana'scharacter, even the story of Rama would have taken a new direction. According to the author, Sita was Ravana'sdaughter and Ravana was aware of this even before Sita'sswayamvar (marriage ceremony)?quoted from Adbhut Ramayana 8-12. This has been corroborated in the first Hindi thesaurus written by Arvind Kumar and Kusum Kumar.
Similarly, light is thrown on Sita'scharacter whom we assume to be a loving and devoted wife and mother only. When Rama in his fight with multi-headed Ravana becomes unconscious, Sita gets red with rage and begins to cry so plaintively that Brahma is forced to revive Rama. Also when Sita hears that Kumbhakaran'sson Moolkasur has decided to kill Rama, and a battle ensues for seven days then on Brahma'sadvice Sita is summoned. The burning strength emerging from her body helps to kill Moolkasur. Still more interesting is the part where Kaushalya points out to Sita the duties of a devoted wife, then Sita boldly remarks, ?How I should behave with my husband I am very well aware of it?I have heard from great women, mothers and others about a woman'snormal and particular duties.?
The author has presented in very simple language the various interpretations of the characters in Ramakatha. It is very amusing to read when she points out that the foundation of a husband-wife relationship is mutual respect and faith but Rama was always trying to test Sita'sdevotion through tests, proofs and promises.
(Antarbharti Prakashan, 20-A/C Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110070.)
Des-Pardes (Hindi) by Kamleshwar, Bharatiya Jnanpith, 228 pp, Rs 170.00
This is a compilation of short stories for which the author received many letters to counter or agree with his writings. The author himself admits that the readers imbibed very deeply the words that were left unsaid and which happens to be the prime aim of the selection.
One of the best stories in this compilation is entitled ?Apne Desh Mein? in which the author meets the protagonist Mike who tells his story about his stay in Zambia, his falling in love with a Negro girl, and his parents, who force him to leave Zambia to keep him away from the evil influences of the natives. And when he returns to his country, he is unable to sleep as he suffers from the guilt that his ancestors had exploited the wealth of Africa'sCongo, Katanga, Zambia, etc. He even holds them responsible for killing Patrice Lumumba, and for killing the tribals and treating them as slaves.
Another moving story entitled ?Weeping Willow? is about a young girl the author meets on emerging from the Hampton Court Palace. The girl is of Indian origin and her grandfather had left India ages ago to set up home in Natal. The family had converted to Christianity. She has a strange query to make, ?Do you realise that after changing one'sreligion, man'sdesires also change?? The girl gives her address as ?Weeping Willow, Under the Blue Sky?, conveying that she is homeless, rootless in a foreign land.
There is one story which is not very new or unusual but here the relationship between the mother and daughter after the girl'sfather'sabsence clearly reveals the loneliness both mother and daughter are facing in their own individual manner.
Though these are definitely not the best of Kamleshwar'sstories, but some of them are worth reading.
(Bharatiya Jnanpith, 18 Institutional Area, Lodi Road, New Delhi-110003.)