by R K Biswas
The year is still young, and Pervin Saket’s newly launched book, Urmila, all of two months old, has already gone into reprint! That is happy news indeed, especially for a debut novel. I am not too surprised though, because it took me about two sittings (the second was required because I have chores to attend!) to polish off the book.
These days, feminist interpretations of almost anything that has lain for centuries under the Indian sun, has become so common that one becomes predisposed to suppose this must be the case with every book by a female Indian author. So right at the onset, I’d like to state that Urmila is not a feminist take on any female mythological figure. Even though in Kaliyug (and I am not referring to the old Bollywood movie of the same name here, though this novel does have its filmy indulgences) parallels have been known to occur. Similar situations and characters as the ones in our epics, sometimes occur in our own lives and times or within the pages of a book. It could be a half-forgotten figure, a little mentioned character, a persona pushed to the margins that intrigues us enough to seek him or her in both real and conjured worlds. Urmila, Lakshan’s wife is one such. Teased out in Pervin Saket’s novel of the same name, her story is neither a retelling nor a retracing of her namesake’s biography. Though there are parallels here as well.
While Rama’s Sita has almost been deified to death, with her real persona being left to the conjectures of the somewhat incredulous and often severely questioning women of today, Lakshman’s Urmila has remained elusive, and hardly any poet has thought it necessary to examine her story, let alone her soul. In The Ramayana, Urmila was destined to endure. As is Saket’s Urmila. Though how she endures is an entirely different story.