This December 2016 Kavita Kane tells us the story of Ravan’s only sister Surpanakha in her recently released book Lanka’s Princess. Unlike her previous books protagonist, Surpanakha is a fairly well known character and often cited as the one who kindled war between Ram and Ravan. In fact, I remember my grandmother saying that parents avoid naming their daughter Surpanakha as she brought doom on her family.
No Twist In Original Story
I started reading the book with the impression that like Anand Neelakantan did in Ajaya and Asura, Kavita might have changed the entire perspective of the original story in order to justify the character. But Kavita has done nothing as such. She has maintained the original story line and depicted Surpanakha as an antagonist rather than protagonist, as a twisted and deviant mastermind rather than a misunderstood character.
Surpanakha as Antagonist
Readers will not fell in love with the character of Surpanakha like Uruvi, Urmila and Menaka. She is ugly looking, cantankerous who never forgives and forgets, cynical ready to cut throat at slightest pretext, cunning and manipulative, hot headed and ill tempered or in other words she was the female version of Ravan, behavior wise.
So why at all care to write about such a character who knowingly instigated a war which wiped out entire male clan of her family and was also responsible for destroying the blissful marital life of Ram and Sita. The reason might be the same for which long ago Maithili Sharan Gupt wrote about Kekayi not to justify her wrongdoings but to reduce hatred for her.
Not once Kavita Kane tried to justify any of the misdemeanor and wrongdoings of Surpanakha instead she concentrated on her upbringing which also plays an important role in shaping a person’s personality.
For her mother Kekasi she was always an unwelcome member in the family because she was a girl while former was expecting a boy. Also darker in comparison to the other good looking siblings she was the odd one out and Surpanakha never felt loved by her family.
So when she finally found love in her husband Vidyujiva she clung to him obsessively and became revengeful when Ravan murdered him for infidelity and treachery. She became bitterly cynical and started considering Ravan and later on Lakshman for taking away people who loved her from her life and fail to see the reason behind it.
In the heaps of misdeeds committed by Surpanakha we almost forgot that she became the victim of one of the most heinous crime that is mutilation, which I suddenly felt is equivalent to acid attack on someone, and that to done by the heroes of the epic. I myself in particular always felt bad and agitated about the Sita’s abandonment by Ram and then again asking her to give a test of purity. And always thought about Surpanakha’s mutilation episode as a action in self defense. But thanks to Kavita at least that prespective has been now changed.
Notable Side Characters
The characters who stands out in this novel are that of Mandodari and Khumbha. They both appeared to be level-headed and the only one who could stop Ravan with their no nonsense approach. Even Ravan’s character has been rightly portrayed by Kavita. He was a scholar-king with no wisdom.
Pace of the Plot
The first half of the book was a little drag and slow. It was about Supranakha’s and her siblings childhood and grown up days. But focus seems to be always on Ravan. The book actually takes off after the murder of Vidyujiva and rest of the book was written in the true Kavita Kane style when her female characters comes in action. Her writing becomes crisp and fluid.
She doesn’t describe war scenes but concentrate more on the aftereffect of each male member’s death in the battlefield. Supranakha had some heated conversation with Sita, Mandodari, Kaikesi and Khumbha. Similarly Ravan’s argument with Meghnad also came out real good. How Ravan and Supranakha both remain stubborn throughout the war despite well knowing its result was also portrayed brilliantly in the second half of the book.
Love Vs Hate
Human mind is naturally designed in such a manner that it cannot live in hatred and gloom for a very long period of time. But sadly Lanka’s Princess is all about hate and revenge. So after a certain point of time it becomes tiring to read the book. The only respite comes at the end when the loving couple of Sita’s Sister, our beloved, Urmila and Lakshman makes entry into the novel. Surpanakha at last find solace in the soothing and calming words of Urmila.
It is then a realization occurred to me that I remember everything about Sita’s Sister as if I have read it a few days ago. But certainly I wont remember Lanka’s Princess much. Why so? May be because Sita’s Sister was all about love and bonding. It is a heart warming story about the life of Urmila. While Surpanakha’s story is all about hatred and revenge.
After finishing Lanka’s Princess, I felt the sole purpose to right the book was to highlight that one episode of disfigurement of Surpanakha which is largely overlooked. Whatever might be the crime but such a barbaric punishment cannot be justified. That’s why in the beginning itself Vishnu now in the avatar of Krishna ask for forgiveness in the book.
It is decent one time read but definitely not the best book by Kavita Kane. It is more of a dark novel. May be that’s why the background of the cover of the book is also dark.
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