Author: Arshia Sattar
Publishing Date: 5 October 2019
“A God who can forget his divinity in order to show us the enormously tragic consequences of our frailties is surely far more compelling than one who remains unreachable in his distant righteousness and perfection.”
We, as Indians, have always considered Ramayana as a story of the victory of good over evil. Rama is often held as an example of ‘purshottam’ the perfect man. It’s the tale of kings and warriors, a tale of a family divided over broken promises and lost loves. What we never consider is that under all these layers, deep down, Ramayana is a tale of love. The love between Rama and Sita is often overlooked due to the several themes of this epic poem. Arshia Sattar’s Lost Loves is a collection of essays exploring the love between Rama and Sita and the former’s anguish after losing his beloved.
Lost Loves has seven essays which explore the love between Rama and Sita in different context. We see the transition of Rama from a crown prince, to a loving husband and finally into a king, who would go to any lengths to uphold dharma and righteousness. Indian mythology and mass psyche has deified Rama and his actions in the Ramayana are often seen through a divine lens. A section of readers has often felt confused and a little horrified by Rama’s action. This is where Lost Loves provides readers a fresh perspective.
Arshia Sattar portrays Rama as a human being. The essays show Rama’s anguish and his conflicted nature. On one hand Rama is deeply in love with Sita but after the battle in Lanka, he knows he has to demand a proof of Sita’s chastity. He knows she is innocent but Rama fears that people would say he has fallen prey to the same failing as his father. The main leitmotif of Ramayana is separation. The separation between a father and a son, brother with brother, between a husband and a wife. The main theme of separation and loss is explored in all the essays.
Lost Loves is repetitive in some parts but that doesn’t dim its brilliance. Sattar’s essays prove to be a valuable guide to anyone who wishes to understand the behavior of Rama. The character of Sita is beautifully explored in Namita Gokhale and Malashri Lal’s In Search of Sita. These two anthologies show that the continued significance of Rama and Sita lies not in their divinity but in their failure to rise above frailties and emotions. For contemporary mortals like us, this provides a better understanding towards are own life in many ways.
I enjoyed reading Lost Loves. It gave me a fresh perspective towards The Ramayana. It makes us see Rama as one of us. This adds a certain poignancy to Rama’s story. If you chose to read Lost Loves, I recommend you read the Ramayana again afterwards because you will see a lot of aspects in a new light.