A River Sutra by Gita Mehta

Book Report/Review
Pages 5 (1255 words)
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A River Sutra is a collection of stories that have as a connecting link the theme of love framed around the Narmada River. The Narmada River is reputed to be one of India's holiest rivers, even a sight of which is said to wipe away sinful births. The narrator in the text is a government official who in the twilight of his life has decided to enter into vanaprastha, the third stage of life according to Hindu tenets.


The serene government rest house situated on the banks of the Narmada becomes the place of learning for the narrator. Ancient Hindu education usually occurs in the form of the guru-shishya tradition. Students who sought learning would reside with their gurus who educated them with parables and stories from the epics. The ultimate aim of education and indeed of the whole Hindu philosophy of life was to attain freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth, to attain nirvana. A River Sutra employs the frametale technique similar to ancient Indian epics such as the Mahabharata and the Buddhist epic the Jataka. The frametale technique is valued for it provides a mode of instruction through stories that can truly bring out the potential of a message. The sixteen stories in A River Sutra are told by different in - text narrators and culminate in the story of the Naga Baba which stretches across the last two chapters. The enduring question through the text remains that about the narrator of the text. The overwhelming feeling is that the narrator remains unenlightened or uneducated by the experiences recounted to him. He remains a passive spectator unable to take the plunge into life. ...
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