Author talk: Shubha Vilas on Ramayana-The Game of Life series

  • Ambica Gulati

Wisdom lies in learning lessons from history. This is cliché, but how lessons from the past are valid in the now is important. Epics, myths, sagas, folktales are all stories of right path and ethical values. And an important one amongst the epics is Ramayana on which the fabric of Indian life is laid. It is a tale of life’s many lessons, many phases, reincarnation deeds and much more. So reading the Ramayana Game of Life series was not just about diyas being lit on diwali celebrating the death of Ravana, but about incorporating messages on a daily basis.
The author Shubha Vilas, armed with degrees in engineering and law, is a spiritual seeker and motivational speaker. He likes to address the crucial question of handling relationships in today’s complex society, using the wisdom of the scriptures and ancient texts. An email conversation revealed what inspires him. Excerpts:

How did the journey to writing begin?
I strongly felt the need to present an epic like Ramayana to the modern audience in a way they could easily understand and appreciate. Ramayana has a wealth of learning for us if only it could be presented in an interesting manner.  My only wish was to demonstrate how the ancient epic holds immediate relevance to modern life. And how the wisdom sutras can help navigate and steer the ship of life through stormy seas and clear skies alike. Writing is a very powerful medium to convey a message. The writings of Veer Savarkar were primarily responsible for shaking up the British confidence about their strong hold on India. My desire to serve society with meaningful stories turned me into a writer.

What or who has been the inspiration behind Ramayana-The Game of Life?
I heard stories from the Ramayana all through my childhood from my grandmother. So my first inspiration comes from her. Another motivating factor was to bring out the epics from the closet and present in a way that can be understood and appreciated by a larger audience.
Our scriptures teach us how to live life. Ramayana presents the realities of life in the most exciting manner. This magical epic arms us with valuable tools to deal with the various twists and turns of our own lives. It gives us simple dharmic wisdom along with clarity we often need. Therefore I have called it, Ramayana – The Game of Life. 

Can we say that the books actually are Ramayana simplified for the 21st century?
Ramayana – The Game of Life is surely for the 21st century reader. Modern audience today is in need of simple wisdom along with clarity which is rooted in time-tested traditional values. This is exactly what we get from our epics; the ability to arm ourselves with valuable tools to deal with the various twists and turns of our own lives. Thus the name - Ramayana – The Game of Life.  
I have tried to make light the heavy philosophy and teachings of the Ramayana, without compromising on any of the deeper principles embedded in it. Here are some interesting quotes from the book which bring out deeper truths of life in a contemporary and at the same time appealing to the 21st century reader.
“The decision to make decisions has to be made in moments of strength not in moment of weakness.”
“One ounce of immaturity coupled with ten ounces of ill advice is the perfect recipe for a life of disaster.”
“Convenience is about changing the law to suit your life but maturity is about changing your life to salute the law.”
“Excessive lamentation is like tying to gulp hot tea. It results in a blistered tongue. One's lamentation for the past should not ricochet to destroy one's future.”
“The circle of indifference has the self at its centre. The circle of compassion has others at the centre. The former leads to apathy; the latter to empathy.”

What have been your personal experiences for finding the lessons you have put across in Book 2—Shattered Dreams?
Some of the lessons that I wrote, often catch me by surprise when I read them later. It almost feels that I couldn’t have written them. Ideas are never anyone’s property; if they were then they should come at will. Therefore anything creative is always the result of a higher intervention.

How did the research happen? How much time did it take you? Which sources did you refer to?
Ramayana – The Game of Life is an authentic rendition of Ramayana for the contemporary audience. I want to present Ramayana as it is to display its relevance even today. I have kept Valmiki Ramayana as my base and added analogies from Kamba Ramayana, Tulsi das Ramacaritramanas and traditional folk tales of the Ramayana that are recited. Thus the reader will get the best of all aspects of the Ramayana and yet at the same time not find any deviation. I would say this is the book for those who are looking for a pure unadulterated and yet at the same time exciting version of the epic. I have been studying the Ramayana for many years and have been hearing it all my life.

What has been the best response for the series?
An international academy of Odisi Dance & Music has adapted the book into a dance drama based on the dialogues of the book. Excerpts from the book will be presented as an Odissi dance drama on Rama Navami day, March 28, 2015 in Vrindavan. This is by far the best response an author can hope to get. Apart from this, the lessons that come as footnotes on every page have also been much appreciated.

What can we expect from you in the future?
It is a six volume series with two books out…four more to go!

About the books
Title: Rise of the Sun Prince
Series: Ramayana: The Game of Life #1
Publisher: Jaico
Price: Rs 250
Launched back in 2013, the first book in​ ​the​ ​Ramayana – The Game of Life​ ​series, titled Rise of the Sun Prince, matched the first chapter (the Bal Kanda) of the original work, which starts before the birth of Lord Rama and ends with his glorious marriage to Sita. Twelve joyful years have passed in Ayodhya since the end of Book 1.

Ramayana: The Game of Life - Book 2 (Shattered Dreams)
Pages: 404
Publisher: Jaico
Price: Rs 350
This second book, Shattered Dreams, begins with a bewildering dilemma and ends with a riddle. The book begins with Dasaratha’s desperate attempt to change his and Ayodhya’s ordained destiny. It also gives a quick peek into the haughty life of the grand anti-hero, Ravana, and his international conquests. Then the drama intensifies as the sinister plot of Manthara is successfully executed. At its core, Shattered Dreams reveals profound rules of human relationships and conduct – what works, what fails to work and how to navigate through this amazing labyrinth


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