Vanara by Anand Neelakantan magnifies the intense love between brothers Baali and Sugreeva, the lesser explored characters of the Ramayana. Growing up in the ashram of Rishi Gautama, they are reminded time and again of the down trodden tribe they belong to, the Vanaras. The innocence of Sugreeva, his blind and foolish faith on people and the fiercely protective shield of Baali over his little brother is touching.
The boy is a dreamer and trusts everyone blindly. He needs to be protected.
Tara comes into the picture when the brothers are forced to leave the ashram and grow into young men. This is when the story becomes fast paced. With Baali’s pure and loyal love and Sugreeva’s uncontrollably insane, yet selfish love towards her, Tara’s emotions put her to a test. Very few writers have successfully understood the heart of a woman and Anand is definitely one of them. The passion, the desire, the pain, the longing, the struggle between hope and despair seeps through the pages in the most enthralling way.
The three characters are forever intertwined as the Vanara tribe rises into the empire of Kishkinda, a dream city with no discrimination, a city solely of the people with their brave king Baali, who doesn’t fear the Devas and Asuras.
Anand is truly a story teller. The language toys with our imagination keeping us on the edge at all times, teasing our mind and making us want more. A simple story grows into an intricate plot with the main theme as human emotions and how they can be the cause for the rise of fall of an empire, the making or breaking of family bonds. What I liked most about the book was how rawly and bluntly love is portrayed. It isn’t the movie or bookish love, but the love that nobody speaks of. The love that sways on the precipice of forbidden fruit. You wouldn’t call it right or wrong, but you’d certainly stop to wonder because as Baali says,
In love, there are no whys…
A fair, just and loyal leader, husband and brother- Baali is truly a misfit in the changing world where grey is the new white.
A Baali doesn’t have any place in this new world.
Despite his just and true nature he is vanquished leaving Tara barely surviving, except in the memories of him that touch her cheeks as the breeze blows through the forest and the sound of his name resonating on her lips.
Baali is gone, his time is gone. The new world belongs to people like Sugreeva, for whom right and wrong is just a distorted blur. To go to the extent of playing with life and death just to get what one wants is not the ideal kind of world. Baali asks of Tara to be a lamp in the era of darkness that begins to engulf the whole world.
Ramayana is an epic but as Anand says, he found another epic hidden in it – Vanara the legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara.
A love story that questions the rationality of love, this book has certainly earned a special place in my bookshelf.
My rating for this book: 4.5/5 stars
I received a hard copy of this book for an honest review. This review has been written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program