Sita’s Sister is how everyone addressed her even though she was the real princess of Mithila, seldom people knew her name was Urmila. Kavitha Kane has portrayed Urmila as the strongest of the sisters and the glue that holds them together. The sweetness of Sita is balanced by the impertinence of Urmila- the bonding between the four sisters is beautiful and lovely.
Ramyanan from the POV of Urmila is what this book is all about. For all of us Ram, Sita and Lakshman are gods while Urmila is just an ordinary woman, just like us. She has no special powers, she is not revered yet she made the most sacrifice, just as expected from the womenfolk. Her relationship with Lakshman the love of her life is soul baring and raw. She goes into the marriage knowing that she would play the second fiddle in his life, yet remains unperturbed as she has lived her childhood like that.
The most impactful line of the book is “ If … any of them would have to choose between his wife and brother, it will be the brother they will opt for. It would do well if the wife keeps this in mind” said by Kirti.In arranged marriage situations most women face this everyday at their marital homes. It not just the brother, it is the husband’s mother, father, sister, niece, nephew and grandparents. We enter into the marriage with eyes wide open that we will always be the second choice and always be taken for granted.
The four sisters get married to four brothers and their life changes unexpectedly. Ayodhya is completely different than Mithila was. Women weren’t given the due respect as they had in Mithila. The mothers of the grooms didn’t take part in wedding festivities. Urmila and her sisters, being scholars, are wary of the new situation. Sita accepts it with a smile as she always does. Mandavi felt suffocated, Kirti managed due to her playfulness and Shatrugan’s humour while Urmila tried creating a Mithila in Ayodhya.
Her love for his sisters and her husband is the highlight of the book. She is herself with her husband, his Mila and the chemistry between the two is thick and passionate. Urmila is a great judge of character and is very observant of her surroundings and the people around her.The welcome of the brides by Queen Kaikeyi and the way everyone perceives things around the palace she had learnt in a few days. She assesses all the three queens, their rivalries and makes a promise to herself that she will let nothing come between the sisters. She is the peacemaker and when the storm was in their lives she was the anchor.
In the storm she lost the most precious people in her life, Lakshman and Sita yet she didn’t shed a tear of grief. Newly married but separated from her husband for fourteen years and separated from her sister for the first time since her birth she still advises Sita and makes it easier for Lakshman to leave the forest. She ponders over the reason that made Kaikeyi transform overnight and finally concludes that it is the evil Manthara. Mostly when the storm hits at us we look for an anchor sometimes not knowing that we are the anchor.
Queen Sumitra is always a supportive mother in law to her and helps her at right times. Queen Kausalya and Ram’s sister Shanta take the situation gravely and are no support to her but she manages. Till Bharat returns Urmila takes care of the kingdom and then keeps them together for the funeral and persuades Bharat to let go of his anger towards his mother.
Another line that strikes a chord is “ I asked one question- what is the Dharma of the husband towards his wife- and I did not get an answer” from Urmila. Over the many millennia this is the question that has never been answered. The stark contrast between Mithila and Ayodhya is again highlighted and Urmila says the royal family is just to the subjects and cruel to its own family members. Lakshman highlights that when he is an ideal brother he is a failure as a husband and son.
Just as we keep wondering why is that the wives are taken for granted and they always get the short straw. Be it parenting, be it taking care of the family, or the elders of the family why does the burden fall on the wife?
When Urmila discovers the real intention behind Kaikeyi’s doings she is pleasantly surprised and wants everyone to know it but keeps quiet because it is not her story to tell. The news of Sita being kidnapped by Ravan finally breaks her down and she is unconsolable, but she takes the news of Lakshman lying unconscious with a calmness that is too dangerous, for her love knew no fear.
Urmila’s love was boundless, her bonds rescuing everyone from hopelessness. A true scholar, an empowered woman, an enchantress and a family saver. Urmila always won in her inner battle, taking everything to her stride and accepting everything.
The book fills the reader with the sense of healing and knowledge that someone millennia’s back suffered fate similar to us. The ordinary retelling of the epic without the heroic deeds and highlighting the unsung heroines of the epic is the work of a mastermind. I loved the book and always keep coming back to it, as Urmila has the faith and trust of all around her and the fulfilment the book gives to the heart is incredible.