The story starts from a battle between Dashrath and Ravan in which, unexpectedly for the former, the latter triumphs. The day on which Dashrath loses a battle for the first time in his lifetime, Ram is born. Therefore, Ram is considered inauspicious because he represented the dent in the invincibility of the grandson of Raghu.
The story moves as the four brothers move to Gurukul and learn their lessons from Guru Vashishtha. The contradiction between Ram and Bharat start to emerge from the debates and discussions in the Gurukul itself. While Ram believes in unerring and obstinate execution of law, Bharat believes in freedom and leniency. Ram and Bharat disagree on the ways to govern and run administration. This leads for once for Shatrughan to remark that, “Ram Bhaiya is too much idealist, while Bharat Bhaiya is practical and real.”
Ram’s obsession or rather obduracy towards the law has been the central theme of the book. On at least five occasions, I remember Ram following the law even though following it will harm him one way or another.
One, when he is made chief of the police force, he indicts a kin of the army chief in a corruption case. This, while the fact that the entire nobility despised Ram because his birth remarked on the loss of his father in battle, there were only few who were sympathetic to Ram and among those was the army chief in question.
When Kaushalya tries to exhort Ram to understand palace politics and let the indicted man go free, he does not budge at his stance. He says instead, “The rule is one and is equally applicable to everyone.”
Second, when Ram’s sister-like companion Roshni is gang-raped and brutally murdered by a group of men, the prime convict turns out to be juvenile. And so, while the rest are executed, the main mastermind behind the gruesome event escapes death and ends up in jail as punishment. While Ram is deeply disturbed by the death of Roshni, who he swore to protect, he does not alter the law in order to avenge her or satisfy his anger.
Third, when Ram lands up in Mithila for the Swayamwara ceremony of Sita and she shows him the bow that was going to be the central point of the ceremony and asks him to prepare beforehand, Ram promptly refuses. Because, the law forbade anyone from having access to the challenge of the Swayamwara before the day of the event. Even though Ram was mesmerized by the instincts of Sita and wanted to marry her, he could not and did not violate the law.
The fourth instance is when the Asurastra is fired against the army of Lanka that waged a war on Mithila (because Ravan’s ego was hurt in the Swayamvara). The law of Lord Rudra forbid anyone from using the Asurastra, and if anyone did use it, he would suffer fourteen years in banishment. Ram willingly and voluntarily suffers the fourteen years in exile by asking his father to impose the punishment on him, instead of Dashrath taking it upon himself.
Five, when Sita, Lakshman, Ram, Jatayu and fifteen soldiers of the Malaputra tribe were residing in the jungle and Shurpanakha and Vibhishan come to them to seek refuge. Even though the two were rebels and represented Lanka, Ram chose to admit the two in his fold. He follows the doctrine of Atithi Devo Bhava, that your guest is equivalent to god and must be treated and respected in the same manner.
The best part of the book is the narration, which is smooth and sailable. The book deals with the contradictions between the values and Bharat and Ram and yet, the force that binds them together. In the current political context where ideological differences end up in grotesque murder and mud-slinging, there is something that one could learn from Ram and Bharat’s story.
Despite ideological differences, they not only respect but love each other.
There is more in the book to be read than just Ram and his family. This book deals with law, politics, culture, religion, relationships, and much more.
At last, I would like to quote a line from the book – what Ram says when Bharat asks about the kind of woman he would like to be with. Ram responds, “A girl that would compel me to bow my head in her admiration.”