Surpanakha – Hariharan Iyer – Book Review

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Goodreads blurb: Educated, young, no-nonsense bearing, able administrator-these are the equalities that won Sesha the loyalties of the people after three years of rule as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. An allegation that he was the mastermind behind the murder of 73 Kannadigas threatens to bring him down but he is miraculously saved at the 11th hour.

Even before he can relish his victory, Sesha is slapped with the charge of sexually offending a young nurse. This time around, the case is strong and his supporters are uncertain. Worse, his teenage daughter calls him ‘vile’ and walks out of the house. While Mythili, his wife promises her full support, her secretive activities-undertaken with the help of a retired cop-is cause of concern for Sesha.

Will Zarina, the human-rights activist, succeed in bringing him down? What about the insinuations of a celebrity lawyer that he is casteist and anti-minorities? When the young nurse is found dead, the case becomes even more complex. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? And who is the mastermind?


What piqued my interest in this book was the fact that the storyline was based on contemporary politics in South Indian states and Tamil Nadu in particular. The protagonist being the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the overarching story being political was something that interested me quite a bit. And believe me when I say this, the author has a firm hold on the subject matter of this book and does more than a fair amount of justice to the same.

One extremely strong point about the book itself is the character development. In his own unhurried, yet crisp manner, the author fleshes out each of the principal characters, their back stories, their motivations and their current state of mind. While this could have potentially reduced the book to a slow, drab affair, surprisingly these character sketches move the plot forward in this book.

One small dampener about this book is its predictability. I don’t know if it was just me or whether other readers also kind of saw the connection between the first and second halves of the book, and somehow predicted how the book would progress from its touch point at the middle.

A relatively larger dampener for me was the sheer abruptness and suddenness with which the book ended. Given all that was happening at that point in time, the proceedings come to a sudden end. And the choice of the main antagonist’s motivations also didn’t quite work for me at all. It was a little too unbelievable and fantastic for me to digest, more so given that the rest of the book is fairly grounded in reality throughout the proceedings.

All of the above being said, this book is a sure shot read for anybody who is interested in contemporary politics and are fans of well thought out and well executed books.


This review has been written for the b00kr3vi3w tours Book Tour for this book. However, the views expressed above are completely honest and unbiased.



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Surpanakha’s lust for Rama

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words – 1st to 7th September 2013.

This post is the second of a series of trying to correlate the Seven Sins to characters and incidents referred to in the Ramayana.

Read Post 1 here.


Please note that there are various versions of this great epic and therefore my post might contradict with what you have heard or read of this particular incident in the Ramayana. This is only an attempt to map the seven deadly sins to incidents or behavior of particular characters in the Ramayana in a given situation and I have taken liberties with my own interpretations of the same. No offense is meant to any version of this wonderful epic.



One version of the story has it that Surpanakha was married to an asura called Dusthabuddhi who enjoyed great favor with Ravana. However, when he started scheming for more power than he presently had, he was executed at the behest of Ravana which led to Surpanakha being extremely displeased with her brother.

The widowed Surpanakha spent most of her time between southern India and Lanka visiting her other asura relatives. During one such visit, she happened to come across Rama and was immediately smitten by his looks. After all, Rama was the embodiment of manly virtues such as broad shoulders, a lean frame, a dusky complexion and also displayed all the requisite traits that any devoted husband should, which Surpanakha observed by spying on Rama, Sita and Lakshmana when they were in exile in the forest.

As the days went by Surpanakha’s obsession with Rama turned into an uncontrollable lust for him and this manifested itself in the form of her approaching Rama and proposing marriage to him despite knowing the fact that he was already happily married. When Rama spurned her advances, she approached Lakshmana with the same offer.

Given the fact that she had observed Lakshmana along  with Rama all these days, her reasoning was that he was second best only to Rama and that if Rama did not agree to be her husband, then Lakshmana would have to do. This was a grotesque and unnatural manifestation of her lust for a human husband with all the good virtues that a husband should have.

Lakshmana however, was not as kind as Rama in rejecting Surpanakha. While rejecting her, he even went ahead and told her that she did not have any of the qualities that he desired for in a wife, and even went so far to say that no sane man would want a wife such as her. This enraged Surpanakha who came to the conclusion that both the brothers were making fun of her.

Provoked by this, she tried to attack Sita which enraged Lakshmana who cut off her nose and sent her running away.

Her first reaction was to approach her brother Khara and request him to extract revenge from Rama and Lakshmana for the insults they meted out to her by rejecting her and disfiguring her. When Khara and his 14,000 strong Asura army were decimated by the brothers, she then went to Ravana and extolled about the beauty and virtues of Sita and how she would make an ideal wife for Ravana.

Ravana succumbed to Surpanakha’s description of Sita and put into motion a chain of events which finally culminated with his death at the hands of Rama.

Thus, the one sin of lust committed by Surpanakha ended up with the mighty Ravana setting off on the path of sure destruction.


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