Society

A book that depicts the life of Sita

Portraying a mellow life  

First-time author, Vandana Nittoor, believes writing is like a good work of art and people are responsible for the art they create. “I started writing out of passion. I always used to write for myself,” says Vandana who recently self-published her book, Banks of the Tamasa. While she grew up in Bengaluru, she currently lives in USA with her family. An accountant by profession, Vandana quit her job to take care of her kids and follow her passion.

The writer’s debut work is, in essence, a retelling of Sita’s life after Ram abandons her. She is abandoned by her husband, Rama. “It is about a woman’s internal journey towards self-realization, how she receives challenges with compassion rather than bitterness and anger,” says describes Vandana. The book starts from the point when a pregnant Sita is dropped off in the forest on Ram’s orders. Seeing the young woman’s distress, sage Valmiki offers her refuge in his hermitage. “I felt that Sita’s life, after this event, has been completely ignored. The texts don’t talk about how she felt, lived or what she thought about her situation. It is just assumed that she accepted what came her way.”

Taking up this idea and using Sita as an example, Vandana wanted to show that women don’t need to lose hope in such dire circumstances, that they can still find a way to go on. “It is generally believed that women have no way out if a spouse leaves them. In my book, I try to show that they can still become a productive element in the community.” While the Ramayana portrays Sita’s mellow life, Vandana explores the possible spiritual and philosophical journey of the character.

Written with a poetic lilt, the author’s writing style sets the tone for an ancient tale. Vandana confesses that her passion for poetry plays a prominent role in this aspect of the book. “It came naturally to me because I used to and still write poetry. Also, I wanted to maintain the tone of an age-old story. Even my editor, Ed Claflin, pointed out that this was a better way to present it.”

Poetry and writing are not her only interests. Following her budding talent for painting, she enrolled for an art course and took up the activity seriously. In fact, she did the illustration on her book cover, is her own artwork – a reproduction of a 16th century fresco in a temple in Andhra Pradesh.

While she admits that Banks of the Tamasa is a woman-oriented book, she adds that it will connect to anyone who has been through major difficulties in life. “Unless you deal with life and its challenges, and question your faith in the way things exist, you can’t understand certain truths in life.” Vandana has no qualms about the fact that her book caters mostly to a mature and adult audience. “I think it’s a very intelligent population out there. It is wrong to assume that a book has to be dumbed down for them.”

Having grown up in a joint family, stories from the Ramayana were an integral part of her childhood. Given her rebellious nature, she never wanted to be like Sita but felt sadness for the female character. “However, as I grew up, trying to keep up with others’ expectations and pleasing everyone, I realized that I was following Sita’s path.” The conflict within her led to a bout of depression, around five years ago. Once she got help and recovered, Vandana decided to return to her passion. “Every step you take is a choice to be true to yourself. We should give permission to ourselves to be who we are.” She loves the Sita in her book for having the courage to explore a pathway for herself, in sync with her true identity.

On writing Ram’s character, Vandana says, “When we idolize and put him on a pedestal, we take away his liberty to make mistakes and accept them. In my book, Ram is more human with his own strengths and weaknesses.” Being a female-centric plot, Vandana didn’t want to portray feminism as an angry way of pushing men away. “I don’t think we should isolate them; our cause needs men’s support.”

Her thoughts on how today’s women can achieve self-realization: “Be more self-aware, do whatever you do with more consciousness. Accept your faults and positive qualities with compassion.”

While she is currently working on her next book, Vandana also hopes to continue pursuing her passion for art as well as work more towards women’s cause. “When you change a girl’s life, you change a whole community.”

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 7:16:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/a-book-that-depicts-the-life-of-sita/article7516324.ece

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