Refreshing Mythological Fiction
By OSWALD PEREIRA
Here comes a mythological novel that is different, refreshing and keeps you hooked from the word go. The divinity of Rama has been orchestrated by several writers, but what I found most refreshing, endearing and engrossing in Ravi Venugopal’s The Exiled Prince was the humanity of the God, who has been revered since eons.
Ravi enthralls readers with breathtaking descriptions of how Rama, using celestial weapons, annihilates the demon queen Tataka, Ravana’s grandmother — and the way he neutralizes the invincible sage Parasurama by absorbing the universal energy of the very ‘shimmering metallic bow’ that the valiant sage throws at Rama, challenging him to ‘wield it and fight me if you can.’ But what I found most fascinating and moving was Ravi’s description of a sorrowful Rama’s parting with his father Dasaratha, the King of Ayodhya, when as a young prince he is sent on a 14-year exile by his stepmother Kaikeyi, whom Ravi has portrayed as strikingly different from the stereotypes that we have read about, so far.
The other human aspects of Rama, like his love for his gentle yet powerful wife Sita and his devoted brother Lakshman, has been depicted with master strokes by Ravi. The author has scored a literary coup of sorts by making Rama the narrator of the story. And along with Rama’s Godliness, we are also treated to his endearing sense of humour. In one scene, Rama even describes how Sita’s snoring keeps him tossing with sleeplessness the whole night in the forest.
Another highlight of the novel is Ravi’s beautiful description of the education and rigorous training of Rama and Lakshman in the art of warfare by the prince’s Guru Brahmarishi Vishwamitra; it is an exercise befitting the son of King Dasaratha, for Rama was none other than the manifestation of the Universal Lord Himself. While Brahmarishi Vishwamitra’s ostensible purpose for training Rama is to help him to terminate gruesome demons like Tataka and her sons, the real reason for arming the heir to Ayodhya with supernatural and divine powers is to find and protect the Crystal of Creation, with part of the souls of Lord Shiva and Narayana suspended within it.
The Crystal, the single most powerful weapon with the power to construct, annihilate and recreate the universe, which had remained hidden somewhere deep within the Himalayan ranges for millennia has gone missing!
The focus of the plot is Rama’s perilous journey to find the Crystal before it falls into demonic hands. But none of the sages or gurus, as well as Rama seems to have a clue where the Crystal is and how it looks may be mere conjecture.
In his tale, Ravi seeks to answer a question that has never been asked: Who was Rama really? What was his real purpose? Is he the real immortal?
This is Book I, of what I understand is a trilogy. I keenly await the sequels and feel confident that Ravi will retain his simple, lucid and fascinating style of writing.
But I do hope that in the sequels, Ravi and the book editors ensure that the occasional clichés and redundant words that have crept into the book are eliminated. This is a minor issue, and I otherwise recommend the book as a must read!
– Oswald Pereira is the author of the best-selling novels The Newsroom Mafia and Revenge of the Naked Princess