A Question of Choices

We all experience moments in life when we wonder how our lives would have panned out had we not made the choices that we made. Do you ever crave to get a glimpse of that alternate life? Given a chance, would you like to witness it?

In Ramayana, Sita’s story pretty much stems from her association with Lord Rama. It’s not wrong to say that her identity is one of Rama’s consort. Unless you take an effort to delve into her story, you won’t be served with one the way Rama’s is done. Here’s a significant female character of Indian mythology, but we rarely get to hear her voice. Even Ravana has been given a better voice than her. However, things are changing now, times are changing now, and people are shifting their focus to Sita too. And just for her silent resilience to stand with her husband and uphold his wishes throughout her life, she is deserving of it all.

Retelling stories closely bound with the faith of the masses is always a double-edged sword. These stories are close to the heart of people, often forming the foundation of their values and ideals. Bhumika is Aditya Iyengar’s retelling of Sita’s story, and I am just floored by the way he has balanced the original with his. Iyengar’s Sita is Bhumika, and Bhumika, even though is Sita, but she is not.

The story…

It has been a long time since Sita left Ayodhya. She has reached the final stage of her life and is quietly spending her days in Rishi Valmiki’s ashrama. A visit from a wandering troupe of performers makes her wonder about how her life had been had she not married Rama, had she not accompanied him into exile, had she not been kidnapped by Ravana. These questions gnaw her but she has no answers, until one day Rishi Vishwamitra arrives and introduces her to Bhumika.

More thoughts

While Ramayana talks about Rama Rajya, Iyengar’s Bhumika talks about Bhumika-Rajya. Bhumika is the queen of Mithila and the bearer of the divine bow, Pinaka. She’s fierce, independent, and one with her own mind. She’s flawed too. She dreams of a land that treats everyone ¬¬– women and men – equally, but is well aware of the hurdles that lie in the path of establishing one. And in Iyengar’s Bhumika, it is Rama who goes through Agnipariksha – trial by fire.

Iyengar took Sita, who always stood behind Rama, and brought her to the fore as Bhumika. He tells a story that could have been without maligning the one that exists. And that is the beauty of this book. Sita is still the bearer of the story – Iyengar does not discard her values and choices but leaves us with a profound message about freedom of choices and respecting what each chooses for themselves.

“There are many different ways for a woman to live her life. None is superior or inferior.”

I am glad that I got to conclude this powerful book so close to International Women’s Day. The universe is resounding with the thought of empowering choices made by women, and it’s a blessing to have got the opportunity to widen my horizon with this brilliant tale.