Breaking the Bow: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana

By Anil Menon

Rating: 3 stars

I enjoyed this collection of SF stories inspired by the Ramayan. I’m familiar with the rough outline of the story from my childhood, but I don’t have the deep immersion that I would have had if I’d grown up in India (in the way that I’ve absorbed the Christian stories just by living my life in Britain, without ever being Christian). This meant that the book was read with Wikipedia always at the ready, to look up names, places and events that Indians would just know. Still, like I say, I’m familiar with the basic story and it was fascinating to see the various different interpretations put on it in this collection.

Most of the stories were fairly sympathetic to the villain of the traditional story, Raavan and they also tended to pick up on the tail end of the story – the bit that many people tend to forget, where after Raam has won Sita back, he doubts her chastity and rejects her. The book contains stories from across the SF spectrum, from hard SF, through traditional fantasy to the fence-sitting of magical realism. My favourite story was one of the more sci-fi interpretations, Sita’s Descent by Indrapramit Das, about an giant intelligent nanite cloud named Sita, who takes the stories that she’s based on a little too literally. Other standouts for me include The Ramayana as an American Reality Television Show (with social media fallout after an episode of the show); the somewhat disturbing, dark piece Weak Heart; and the modern day story Kalyug Amended, with its absolute killer final line.

This is a great collection to dip in and out of and makes me think in different ways about the stories of my childhood. I’d be happy to read many of these stories again (I say that about a lot of books, but there’s always the next shiny thing to read, so I never get time. Still, this book will stay on my shelves in the hope that one day I do have the time).

Book details

ISBN: 9789381017043
Publisher: Zubaan Books
Year of publication: 2012

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