Summary Of Nabaneeta Dev Sen's When Women Retell The Ramayan
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Nabaneeta Dev Sen, in her essay ‘When Women Retell the Ramayan’, which is on rural folk songs about Sita, puts it succinctly, “The ideals of the epic world obviously do not have much to share with women, nor do the women enjoy the heroic values. There is little they can do there—other than get abducted or rescued, or pawned, or molested, or humiliated in some way or the other” (18). It is often argued that Sita is a convenient vehicle through which patriarchy seeks to teach women to bear injustices and suffer silently. And yet to these rural women, Sita’s story signifies the predicament of all women as permanently exiled. They understand, Dev Sen says, that while exile has a touch of masculine dignity to it, abandonment is the lot of the women and only signifies shame and despair. “In the women’s folk tradition in India, never mind where you are, which century you belong to or what language you speak, you are all sisters in sorrow.” (19). This then makes possible a promising collaboration between village artist Moyna Chitrakar and urban Bangalore-based writer Samhita Arni.
Based as it is on folk art, the book does not sport a fair-skinned Rama, nor a doe-eyed, demure Sita. Since sorcery and wizardry and belief in the demonic are very much a part of folk belief, those aspects of the story find considerable representation, even leading to expansion of the cast of characters to include a few more with magical powers. The flat, two-dimensional nature of the art and the bold,