Multiplicity as Strength and Vulnerability
Vinod C. Khanna
RETELLING THE RAMAYANA: VOICES FROM KERALA by C N Srikantan Oxford University Press, 2006, 157 pp., 250
January 2006, volume 30, No 1

This slim volume provides the reader more than what the title page promises. Besides the immensely readable English translations by Vasanthi Sanakaranarayanan of ‘Ramayana retellings’ by two outstanding contemporary Malayalam literary figures, we have the very useful author’s and translator’s notes, as well as a lucid introduction and highly informative Afterword (on the Ramayana in Kerala) by the well-known scholar and literary figure, K.Satchidanandan. The translator’s note tells us how she became “disenchanted with the myth of the ideal man”(Rama/Raman), a process reinforced by growing acquaintance with feminism and the women’s perspective. This is the background to her being attracted to Sarah Joseph’s short stories which she sees as “not mere subversions of the original, but a modern and feministic reinterpretation of the Ramayanam itself.” The translator also goes on to explain why she agreed with the OUP suggestion to include in the volume Nair’s Kanchana Sita (the Golden Sita). Like Joseph’s stories, this play is, Vasanthi tells us, not only pro-woman, but part of the “subversion of the Ramayanam” in Kerala, and presentation of a new interpretation.

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