The Liberation of Sita

'The Liberation of Sita' by Volga is translated from Telugu by T. Vijaya Kumar and C. Vijayasree. It is a collection of five short stories and an author interview. This short read of 125 pages comes under the foray of 're-visionist myth-making'  - the act of looking back into an old text with a new critical eye, here it is through a women's perspective forging bonds of sisterhood between Sita and the sidelined almost-mute women characters in Ramayana. 

"Through their retellings, women not only break the hold of tradition but free tradition from its fixity and take it to a free zone where multiple mutations and trans-mutations become possible." The women here - Urmila, Renuka, Surpanakha and Ahalya, have their own voice, re-present their story from alternative points of view, and convey their life's experiences to Sita providing her the strength to break free from the mortal relationships, and find true liberation. "You belong to this whole world, not just to Rama."  And eventually she is able to leave behind all attachments and return where she belongs and of whom she was borne - the omnipresent Mother Earth. 

Truth is multi-faceted. Something that comes as a surprise with every retelling of the epic that I read. Surpanakha was a Dravidian woman, and that the traditions and customs of the Dravidians were different from those of the Aryans, and that the Dravidians were depicted as demons in the Puranas. 

Some of the quotes I loved from the book -- 

"Do women exist only to be used by men to settle their scores?" - Surpanakha. Through Sita in the stories here, we see that "women are no longer means to serve someone else's ends, nor are they merely the prizes in men's quests. On the contrary, they are questers seeking their own salvation." 

"Desire to expand the Aryan Empire
Ignited the Rama - Ravana war
It's an Arya - Dravida clash
Women too became pawns." - Surpanakha and Sita

"Rama has asked for my chastity test. Isn't death better than this? Isn't leaving me to my fate better? Why humiliate me like this?" - Sita

According to Ahalya, the core issue is not that of female fidelity or the lack of it but of man's power to put it to test. According to Renuka, it is futile for a woman to anchor her identity just in her marital status or in her motherhood. 
"Whatever gives you peace of mind, that alone is the truth." - Ahalya
"Never agree to a trial, Sita." - Ahalya 

"Your truth and mine are not the same."


Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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