Saturday, November 16, 2019

Book Review: Asura

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Asura, the story of Ravana and his people. Most of us already know about the story of Rama (Ramayana). As per Ramayana, whatever Rama did was according to dharma (law) but "history is written by the victors". This book explains the Ravana perspective of Ramayana. The story is well written and all the important events of Ramayana is covered with Ravana perspective. There is a relevance to each event and justification from the Ravana side. This book helps us to see beyond the Gods and mythological creatures. It is written with human touch, hence, in this story everyone is a human without any magical powers. Reader can also relate it with current time and systems. It may change your perspective towards Ravana. I also find comparison between south Indian and north Indian culture at various places in the book.

I have read Shiva trilogy by Amish Tripathi in the past which inspired me to read more mythological books. The writing style of Anand Neelakantan is very different from Amish Tripath and it is obvious too. In this book, I find many words beyond my vocabulary. I usually read books from Indian authors so my vocabulary is very limited and I got an opportunity to add few more words into it by reading this book. I highly recommend this book to all the mythology readers.
Here are some glimpse from the book which may motivate you to buy an read it (to buy you may visit the Amazon link given at the start of the article.):
  • I didn't know then, but I had been born to fulfill someone else's destiny. To allow someone else to become God.
  • Our dharma was based on simple things: a man should be true to his words; he should speak from his heart and shouldn't do anything he considered wrong. One should not cheat even if  one was sure to fail. One should honor women and not insult anyone. If there was injustice, we had to fight it at all costs.
  • We saw temples where the God resided and demanded a portion of the earnings which men strive hard to earn. And we also saw the representatives of those Gods who plundered in God's name.
  • Why were only a few able to control the power and wealth while the rest obliged them, and even laid down their lives to help this small selfish gang oppress them and their children? Was it fear?
  • Money, caste, rituals, traditions, beliefs, and superstitions all conspired together to crush the humble majority.
  • The moment I started asking why, I was branded a hothead.
  • I am no atheist. I strongly believe in God and am always willing to pray for my material and spiritual progress. But for me, God is a very personal thing and prayer needs to be spoken silently in my heart.
  • The rituals, the animal sacrifice, the curse of caste - none of these had the sanction of the Vedas nor were they divine proclamations or edict.
  • What my predecessors had tried to do was to run a republic. They wanted democracy, where each man, like this bunch of idiots in front of me, decided the future of the nation.
  • The rich did not care who ruled, as long as they were allowed to be rich. The poor could not afford to care and nobody asked their opinion in any case. Only the middle class mattered and any half-witted ruler knows how to pamper them.
  • It could have been due to my inborn leadership qualities that this stealing of a subordinate's ideas emanated from me and the bad and foolish ideas had some other father.
  • What would you choose between glorious martyrdom and deceitful victory?
  • Peer pressure is something which even great men find hard to resist.
  • People conduct their business in the market place with elaborate rituals so no one would touch or pollute each other. But they also spat red pan juice all over the street and walked over it.
  • People openly defecated but were still scrupulous about not touching each other.
  • The irony was that the natives were more afraid of being touched by Asuras than of being killed.
  • Do not believe in anyone, especially your siblings, when aspiring for success, for they are bound to be your bitterest enemies.
  • Never trust a traitor, even if he has done the dirty work for you. Tomorrow he may turn against you.
  • It took courage to lose your pride and still survive. It took will power to suppress one's screaming ego and grovel before another man. It took determination to keep one's head down and act humble, when you were seething inside. Ultimately, the victories do not matter, nor pride or glory, only the survival matters - one's life and successors, the clan, race and language.
  • Children need space to grow and it is difficult when their father is a huge banyan tree.
  • Men cheat, betray, love, strive, struggle, fail, fall, getup, and repeat the process to die and vanish forever or be reborn. But the earth remains aloof, distant and unchangeable. I was just a speak floating in the mighty universe. Tomorrow, or perhaps the next minute, I would be gone. Would it matter to anyone? A few perhaps would be sad and others happy for it, but it would only be relevant for a while. Over time, my achievements, my birth and death, would be irrelevant. So the size of my empire was irrelevant and there was no need for any bloodshed. Life was too short for fighting wars and too sweet to throw away on silly things like ambition. I wanted to believe that I was not afraid to die. One day everyone died. That was the way of nature. You had to give way to the next set of living things. Mentally, I had never been afraid to die. But then, how could I ever leave this beautiful life? Wind whistled past my ears and I took a deep breath of the cool morning air. I breathed life.
  • You keep the godhood you gained through unfair means and I'll keep my manhood and die a warrior's death.
  • The king could not drag us to a war over his private affairs. It was a family feud at best but we were paying the price.
  • We would give our blood, our lives and everything we owned, for if we lost this war, we would lose something more precious than life.
  • Claim that God is with you, or better you are God, then anything you do, any adharma you commit, becomes divine play.
  • The emperor uses gold to decorate his roof when men like us do not eat even one square meal a day.
  • Everything the rich and the mighty did, even in charity, pity or generosity, smacked of selfishness.
  • This country will never change. Grab everything whenever you can - that's the mantra. Greed was the basis of this rotten country.
  • Curiosity is a great motivator
  • People loved you not for the short-term popular things you did them as a ruler, but because you were just.
  • Asuras would not be Asuras without betrayals.
  • I was so tired of war. But I didn't have the power to stop it, The juggernaut rolled on. It would stop when the time was right and not when the participants wished.  And it would destroy whatever came in its way - pride, power, life, honor, everything.
  • Save your political speeches to fool the masses. You are fighting this war for your own selfish reasons.
  • The love of a father for his son is always one-sided.
  • When I strove for bigger things - for bigger cities, magnificent temples, wider roads, better ports, larger ships, increased trade, improved business, making a name among the nations of the world, making my country richest in the world - I forgot something simple and basic. I forgot my people. I thought glittering cities marked progress. I forgot about the people who lived in gutters. When I gave lavish banquets, I forgot that most of my people had nothing to eat.
  • I am now mature enough to know that things happen randomly and we poor humans get caught like straws in the wind.
  • I would make military service compulsory, irrespective of whether the person was the son of a rich merchant, ugly priest, or poor beggar.
  • I would make it mandatory for everyone who passed out of the technical or medical schools, to serve for at least five years in the countryside.
  • It was a vicious but meaningless cycle, where the only losers were those who were honest and straightforward. Everybody cheated to their own capacity. And everyone was aware of what was happening.
  • From birth to death, our culture had trained us to bribe and to take bribes and endorse bribes.
  • Do the birds need permission to fly? Do the fish swim on someone's authority? Learning for human, is like swimming for fish or flying for birds.
  • If your dharma needs to be protected from a little boy, by killing him, if dharma is afraid of a few Sanskrit words uttered by a child, think if you can, you ruler of this sacred land, what sort of dharma you are protecting and whose hands hold the strings that control you.
  • The irony was that he was successful in getting Sita back from most powerful king in the world, and yet was powerless to save his wife from clutch of orthodoxy.
  • Ravana was a man who lived life on his own terms, doing what he thought was right and caring nothing for what was written by holy men; a man who lived life fully and died a warrior's death.

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