For some, it’s a religious text; for others, an enthralling world of magic and fantasy. Some take from it lessons in politics; for others it tells tales of ultimate love. This is how author Arsia Sattar describes the Ramayana.
She has authored several books on the Hindu epic, including a 1996 translation published by Penguin.
“My journey with the Ramayana began as a child,” Sattar said, speaking with journalist Supriya Nair on Thursday as part of the HDFC Home Loans literature section of the HT Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
“My first memory of Ramayana is Raavana. As a child, I was afraid that Raavana would come and take me away,” she added, laughing.
Sattar says she fell in love with the epic while studying in Chicago. “I picked the character of Hanuman as a part of my PhD thesis in South Asian languages and civilisations. That’s when I realised that there could be various ‘tellings’ of Ramayana,” she said.
Speaking about the books on the Ramayana that she has authored for children, Sattar said the most interesting questions come from her littlest readers.
“A 10-year-old once asked me why Ram ran after the golden deer and I was at a loss to explain it,” she said. “For me, the Ramayana is a true epic and I don’t like it when teenagers use the word ‘epic’ loosely. Ramayana tells a fantastic feature of imagination. It’s a story where monkeys talk and fly.”
The audience enjoyed every bit of the session, which was held in the lush garden of the David Sasson Library.
Piya Bose, 34, from Prabhadevi said she had just returned from Nashik where she was researching the Ramayana. “The session was very interesting. I was at a place in Nashik where Sita was kidnapped by the demon Raavana. I am still in that headspace, so this was wonderful,” she added.