Books and Me: The Valmiki Syndrome

Book Title: The Valmiki Syndrome

Author: Ashok K BankerThe Valmiki Syndrome Book Cover

I picked the book up because of its title. I have been interested in knowing how sages like Valmiki transformed themselves into who they became. If you know the transformative story of ‘Bandit Ratnakaran’ becoming ‘Sage Valmiki’ and you want to know how this transformation happened, you will also pick the book up just like how I did. But to be true this story is only a fourth of the book. The book has three other stories that run in parallel – that of Suhasini, Sara and Ravi. No, they are not stories from the Puranas like that of Valmiki, but from today’s world and based on lives like ours (possibly).

While there are number of books written on the mythological and Puranic stories by the author Ashok Banker and so many others, writing a non-fiction book based on them is truly a challenge. The author has made a great attempt to present some solutions to living life more peacefully and happily. The stories (that of Suhasini, Sara and Ravi) provide us with enough variations of what most of us go through in life. Hence it is likely that you will relate to or extrapolate from these stories some situations that you have been through in life. This provides a connect to the reader and creates the hope that he or she will receive some answers as well. But somehow towards the end of the book, I felt let down. I am not sure if it has any reflection of the author’s ability because one must acknowledge the fact that writing non-fiction based on our historic literature is everybody’s dream – but difficult as well. Valmiki’s story in my humble understanding has nothing to do with balancing personal and professional priorities in life. While the other stories do bring out the importance of building work-life balance they stand starkly different from Valmiki’s story.

While there is a lot I learned about Valmiki through this book, it was not in line with my expectations. I kind of tried to speed through the remaining stories as they seemed to reflect more about balancing various aspects of life rather than finding what one needs to do in life. In my opinion Valmiki’s life and that of so many others from the Puranas has to do with how they found their principal vocation in life. How did they make that happen? What did they do that led them to their identification of their vocation? How did finding this lead them to self realization? All of these need deeper thinking and personal reflection. I am also beginning to realize that these are not to be sought in books and as tips from others – somehow that is not the way it seems to have been gained by others in history.

While there are brilliant works in our ancient historic literature that can point the way and serve as guideposts, it is up to each one of us to figure it out ourselves. So it is a long and tough journey which only the fearless and single pointed can take. Keep searching for you may land yourself on that path as well.

One thing that this book has also inspired me to do is put ‘Reading the Ramayana’ in detail on my reading list (or should I say study list?). If possible in Sanskrit with transliteration because many quotes and references in the book to the Ramayana gave me a glimpse of the breadth of the knowledge embedded in that story.

Thanks to Ashok Banker for providing a book that inspires us to bring balance to life’s priorities while also showing us the direction to the Ramayana – a treasure trove of wisdom from the realized sage Valmiki.

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