HT Picks: New Reads
On this week’s list of good reads is a Kannada litterateur’s look at Sita’s story, a book that tells you that the negative emotion of spite can have healthy outcomes, and one woman’s repudiation of the Hindu faithUpdated: Oct 23, 2020, 17:03 IST
SITA LOOKS BACK
On the original release of Uttara Kaanda, SL Bhyrappa’s twenty-fourth novel, the stalwart of Kannada literature said that he had been so overwhelmed by Valminki’s Ramayana that he couldn’t go beyond Ayodhya Kaanda. However, the all-pervasiveness of the Rama discourse on Indian writing and philosophy compelled him to examine the final volume of the original epic: Uttara Kaanda. It was a revelation. In it he saw Rama, Lakshmana and Sita as human. Lakshmana’s subservience to his brother was not absolute; power had changed Rama; and Sita never recovered from the humiliation of her banishment.
In Bhyrappa’s Uttara Kaanda, Sita looks back on her life – abandoned at birth and abandoned again by her husband. Her entire life has been a quest for home, a sense of belonging. When they return from their long exile, Rama is anointed king of Ayodhya, but a pregnant Sita is sent away to live in a forest. Her exile doesn’t end.
Uttara Kaanda is Sita’s soliloquy; O Rama, I loved the pure man you were in your youth, not the man you have become – not this man who is shackled by the royal throne. My love for you died sixteen years ago. A master of detail, Bhyrappa mines the ancient epic to humanise characters who have, for centuries been looked upon as gods beyond reproach, bringing us as close as we’ll ever come to understanding them.*
CUT YOUR NOSE TO SPITE YOUR FACE
Spite covers psychology, economics, genetics, literature and current affairs to examine why humans inflict self-harm just to get one over on someone else. Why do we secretly want our friends to fail? Lots of irresistible stories about toxic behaviour in supermarkets and over the privet hedge, ramping up to incendiary divorces, vicious business practices, backbiting politics, scorched earth terrorism, Trump, and Brexit. Was Trump elected because people voted out of spite for Hillary Clinton?
There’s a hopeful message too – the upside of our dark side. Spite can drive us forward, and Simon provides a fresh perspective on the word by showing the evolutionary benefits of spite as a social leveller, an enabler of defiance, a wellspring of freedom and a vital weapon in our everyday armoury.*
A REASONED CRITIQUE OF HINDUTVA AND HINDUISM
In a reasoned critique of Hindutva and Hinduism, feminist scholar and activist, Wandana Sonalkar, outlines why she, born female and upper caste in Maharashtra, has repudiated her religious identity.
Based on her personal experience, and on textual and empirical evidence, she offers an intimate account of caste practices, and argues that patriarchy and Brahminism are integral to Hinduism. As such , it is misogynist and casteist, and its exclusionary imperatives are essential to both its practice – and to Hindutva, which extends this imperative to Muslims.
She reiterates that discrimination and inequality have been so internalized that their daily observance segues seamlessly into social interactions, thus crystallizing and entrenching them deeply in society.*
*All copy from book flap