From the bestselling author of Karnas wife, comes this book about Urmila, Sitas sister and the neglected wife of Lakshman and one of the most overlooked characters in the Ramayana.
As Sita prepares to go into exile, her younger sisters stay back at the doomed palace of Ayodhya, their smiles, hope and joy wiped away in a single stroke. And through the tears and the tragedy one woman of immense strength and conviction stands apart – Urmila, whose husband, Lakshman, has chosen to accompany his brother Ram to the forest rather than stay with his bride. She could have insisted on joining Lakshman, as did Sita with Ram. But she did not. Why did she agree to be left behind in the palace, waiting for her husband for fourteen painfully long years?
This book is about Urmila. A lesser known character in Indian mythology, who is mentioned mostly as Laxman’s wife or as Sita’s younger sister. But the book for the first time takes the reader through the happenings in the lives of the four sisters & the royal family of Ayodhya from the POV of Urmila.
What I liked:
- Urmila’s characterization. While at places she got too ideal for my liking & was wise beyond her years, for most of the book she is this strong lady who faces each problem coming her way very bravely. She speaks her mind freely without being disrespectful. She doesn’t tolerate injustice. She isn’t just a wife. She is a painter & a scholar. When Laxman leaves her behind to follow his brother into exile she is strong enough to overcome her pain & continue living her life. While she certainly loves him she doesn’t waste her life pining for him. While he is constantly in her thoughts her life doesn’t stop without him. It goes on, in a good constructive way.
- The language. It is beautiful. The descriptions of the places, the way Urmila & Laxman meet, their budding romance, their talks. Everything is beautifully described.
- The women here are like real women. They aren’t those perfect heroines. They have their flaws, each has a different & distinct character. They have their own thoughts, their own hobbies, their own likes & dislikes like any normal woman. They make mistakes, they learn from them.
- The portion where the author mentions that Sita became the crown princess, Sita became known as Vaidehi (the princess of Videha), as Janaki (Janak’s daughter) & how in fact all these titles belonged to Urmila since Sita was adopted by King Janak. You cannot help but feel the injustice Urmila has suffered. She doesn’t envy Sita but as a reader you feel this differential treatment deeply.
- While I am not a fan of mythological romance I loved all the scenes between Laxman & Urmila. The times he called her Mila, the way he touched her wrist lightly many times, their parting, everything had me blushing to the roots of my hair. 😛
What I disliked:
- This phrase from the summary of the book printed on its back: the neglected wife of Lakshman. Laxman never neglected her. Ever! He loved her completely. He made it clear to her that his brother would always come first in his life & married her only after she accepted this.
- The book lingered a lot on the period of exile. The author could have cut off some portions of the exile chapters & instead added Urmila’s reaction when Ram banishes a pregnant Sita from Ayodhya & Laxman has to leave her in the forest. It would have made a much more interesting read. Also missing were some cute scenes between Laxman & Urmila when she is pregnant & later a scene or two with the kids.
- The reunion scene between Laxman & Urmila could have been much better. I remember my granny telling me how Laxman was so changed during the period of exile that Urmila hadn’t been able to recognize him & assumed he was some stranger. While no one but Urmila & Laxman will known the truth behind this tale, I would have loved to read a naughty twist on this tale. The reunion was too bland for such a passionate couple as this.
While a brief previous knowledge of Ramayan will be helpful in understanding this book better, it is not an absolute must. You can still read it & understand all the characters & story very well.
A 4.5/5 from my side.