Edited By Namita Gokhale and Malashri Lal
For most, Sita poses a conundrum. Who is she—doormat wife or true symbol of empowered womanhood? A mortal woman caught in circumstances beyond her control or the incarnation of a goddess? In Search of Sita tries to address this dilemma from several points of view, each seeking to revisit the epic and locate Sita within that multiple context of woman, goddess, catalyst with contemporary relevance.
This is an erudite book, demanding effort and perseverance from the reader. One presumes the editors had no intention of pandering to anyone merely looking for a breezy read. Nevertheless, it is the less complex sections—the In Dialogue and Creative Interpretations—that make it a pleasurable read. Allowing the reader to instantly engage with the book’s premise rather than get lost in myriads of extrapolations.
The irony is that the highlight of the book for me had little to do with Sita but with Surpanakha. An Infatuation by Amit Chaudhuri takes that episode from Ramayana and turns it around to a compassionate portrayal of Surpanakha and how Rama and Lakshmana toy with her like two street thugs. Men with scant respect for women, be it rakshasis or devis. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, about why they did what they did!