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A Smothering Selfless Epitome: Sita

 


Dr. Sapna Dogra

Assistant Professor

Department of English

Government College Baroh,

Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India

 

Review by Dr. Sapna Dogra

 

 Author: Shweta Mishra “Shawryaa”

 

A Smothering Selfless Epitome: Sita

 

Kindle Ebook

Year of Publication: 2020

Price: USD 5.19

ASIN no: B08CHM7JT9

 

There is a move at present towards interrogating and re-reading the mythologies through a feminist point of view. There has also been a change not only in the writers but in public taste as well. Modern readers generally acknowledge and appreciate works that deal with ‘retelling’ to bring a fresh perspective to the so-called stories thrust upon them by the literary forefathers. It seems obvious that this bears some relation to the increasing literary confidence and assertiveness of modern female academicians. A Smothering Selfless Epitome: Sita is in line with the ever-expanding tribe of books that aim to tell Goddess Sita’s story. It’s a retelling and re-questioning through women’s eyes.

 

Shweta Mishra has chosen to explore the thorny topic of the relevance of Goddess Sita in today’s world solely on the strength of her conviction. Valmiki’s The Ramayana, which recounted the story of God-hero Rama and his wife Goddess Sita is probed further to bring home the point that Lord Rama never managed to kill the Ravana of patriarchy. For Shweta, Rama is a testimony of the patriarchal values in India. She begins her book by stating that “I don’t want to be Sita.” (p. 2) What follows is an explanation as to why she is reluctant to be one.

 

The early chapters unfold providing just enough contexts for us to care about what it was to live a life of Sita. The book is dedicated to “. . . every woman who is austerely expected to live up to the standards set by Sita and to every man who is comfortably excused that he can’t equal the standards set by Ram.” (p. 7) From the very beginning, the book braces the readers for an invigorating read. Shweta also seeks forgiveness for her impudence to dare to raise her voice and speak on behalf of Sita.

 

Sita, if you were ever there, I ask for your forgiveness. Your status as a Goddess makes me feel anxious and although I speak as your voice in this book, I know not whether this assortment of thoughts is a reflection of your way of thinking. There’s a greater probability that you think otherwise and that I went utterly wrong. It’s possible that I may anger you in the course of this venture. . . Therefore Sita, forgive me for everything…for speaking on your part, for speaking for you, for raising a voice in your favor…though you never asked me to do it. Forgive me for this infringement as I couldn’t stop myself from barging into restricted areas. (pp. 9-10)

 

The book is in the form of letters/diary entries with Shweta’s and Goddess Sita’s voices alternating. There is no antagonism between the two. Both the voices merge to bring home the same point.

 

Did Sita have a voice? Sita cannot complain. Sita shouldn’t complain. Sita is patience personified. Sita is goodness incarnate. Sita is sweetness and virtuosity alive. For Sita her husband is God and Sita would never let the human world or the demon world speak against RAM. (p. 20)

 

Lord Rama is universally accepted as the embodiment of Dharma, righteousness and duty. She questions the development of the myth of the Maya Sita, which was developed to preserve her chastity.

 

To keep me pure you created an illusionary Sita, my image, my reflection; just an illusion to cuckold Ravana, or to save my public image, or both.

Is body so important?

That justified the Agnipariksha.

Essentially, it was simply an error of nomenclature. It was not an examination, no test as such. It was just a process of reclamation from fire.

A wrong title was allotted to that episode. It should have been renamed as “Satya Sita Punarwapasi. (p. 28)

 

Lord Ram has been conspicuously silenced. The entire book serves as a succinct dialogue of Sita and the modern women and the issues that bother Sita the most and how they impinge on modern women. Mishra’s signature angry, conversational and engaging style makes this book a good read. She doesn’t make her book drown in dry facts and unnecessary mythological annotations. It is written for women but is accessible for all. Even people ignorant of India Mythology will find it of interest.

 

As one progresses through the first few chapters of the books, Sita’s travails become oddly intriguing. One cannot help but feel overwhelmed at the poignancy of her feelings and it allows the readers to be entwined into her thoughts and feelings. Sita had to prove her purity to her husband by undergoing a fire test. The test becomes a pivotal point for Sita, as it explores issues of chastity and the troubled relationship between Rama and Sita. She is unable to connect to the man who unjustly banishes her.

 

The world vows by my virtues. I am like that tree that is laden with fruits and willows down under the weight of its own juicy fruits. Totally selfless. Totally for others. Pluck away my fruits. Sit under my shade. Throw stones at me and take away my fruits. Climb onto my branches to occupy a vantage point, to have an aerial view, to look at far off sunrises and sunsets while stepping on my branches and pulling away my leaves. (p. 40)

 

The book has its own set of weaknesses: lack of extensive research, improper format, use of slangs, repetition and lack of attention to details. Nevertheless, it is an inquisitive and thoughtful feminist engagement with Ramayana. The book is not marred by jargon; the readers can easily breeze through the book in a day or two. This book caters to the general public and academicians alike. Also, the book doesn’t subscribe to the hyper-feminist academic writing laden with jargon that gender studies course books so proudly flaunts.