Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Because I am...

A discussion about what is 'morally' or 'ethically' correct with a friend triggered a sequence of thoughts. Aren't the words like 'morals' and 'ethics' over-glorified? Who decides what is morally right any ways? We ourselves or the society we live in or the long evolution of the continuous interaction between the two? Or is it the result of drilling in of certain notions in our minds which classically conditions us to 'behave' and even 'think' in a particular way?

The discussion strayed to Ramayana and the morality of the characters it has. All the kids, including me, in Indian households grow up listening to stories about Lord Rama and his dignified wife Sita. I remember how watching Ramayana on television used to be a family affair. The grandmothers consider telling tales about the glory of Lord Rama their duty and an indiscernible method of inculcating righteousness among their grand-children.

I am not going to talk about how dutiful Lord Rama was, if at all he was. Not because I am apprehensive about putting forth my rabid and not-so-acceptable thoughts about him but simply because it'll be going against my own premise--"Everyone has their own definition of morally right behaviour." I am not going to question anybody's piety or rectitude here. I'll just try to paint a picture of the setting in which the two most prominent females in the story of Ramayana functioned and try to delve into their thought processes.

The first character, of course, is Sita-- a compliant wife, a conscientious princess and an unrelenting woman. Her parents found her while ploughing the earth and she, therefore, is considered to be 'the daughter of earth'. She inherited all the so-called feminine virtues like patience, endurance and tolerance from her mother. All her life, she stood by her husband like a pillar. Her overtly generous nature compelled her to cross the line called 'Lakshamana Rekha' drawn for her by her brother-in-law which till date is considered to be an unforgivable mistake, particularly when it is committed by someone as pure and untainted as Sita. She also readily agreed to prove her innocence by giving an 'agnee pariksha' because her husband was prompted by some man in his kingdom to make her do so.

It is important to add here that Lord Rama was a dutiful king whose primary concern was the well-being of his subjects. So by asking his wife to prove her purity, he was just taking care of his subjects' welfare. He was deeply saddened about it otherwise.

When our irreproachable and angelic Sita could no longer bear the social dichotomy, she quietly retreated to a quaint jungle. She never indulged in finger-pointing and did not raise her voice against the injustice done to her. Such immense was her strength, her ability to seep in her pain. Once her children (whom she brought up single-handedly) were accepted by their own father, she returned to her mother, her forbearing mother earth.

The second character is Surpanakha, the demoness and Ravana's sister. Widowed Surpanakha enjoyed traversing the forests. She loved getting lost in the wilderness. She enjoyed wandering aimlessly, stopping by waterfalls to quench her thirst, plucking off fruits from trees to satiate her hunger and sitting amidst birds and beasts to watch the sun rise and stars twinkle. She enjoyed being free, self-contained and unregimented.Her eyes fell on Lord Rama while he was on exile and she was immediately smitten by his suave looks and stately demeanor. She had no qualms about making advances towards him which were turned down. Heart-broken but still hopeful, she now approached Lakshamana, the charming younger brother of Lord Rama. Instead of being happily accepted or politely turned down, she was ridiculed, scorned and disdained by the two noble and honourable men.
She saw Sita standing with them and felt sorry for her for she was everything a man desires but nothing what she herself wanted.

Please note the usage of present form of 'desire'. It came spontaneously; probably because nothing much has really changed on that front.

She was also envious of Sita for Sita had what she desired. Infuriated at the way she was disrespected, she vented out her anger and jealousy by attacking Sita only to have her nose chopped off by Lakshamana.
She didn't believe in quietly bearing this mockery and hence, went to her brother to seek justice which, it is said, triggered the battle of Lanka.

Clarifying again, I am not sharing my opinion about who was right and who wasn't. I don't want to comment anything about anybody's intentions or modus operandi. I am just trying to think the way these two women perhaps did.

Till today, we frequently hear phrases like-" We believe in giving independence to girls but we also teach them never to cross the line." Isn't it figuratively close to what Sita did and what was inflicted upon her subsequently? Even if you have been virtuous by social standards all your life but happen to go over that invisible line drawn for you just once, you deserve to be punished for it throughout your remaining life.
'Naak mat katana', a very popular idiom in Hindi, I feel, has its roots in the Surpanakha story.

I, any given day, will like to lead my life like Surpanakha. I know I won't be considered an epitome of elegance, grace, purity and character. I know no mother will ever tell her daughter to emulate me and imbibe my characteristics. But I'll at least be what I want to be.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Give me some time

Yes, speak, I’m listening. But look,
give me some time.

Far away in that lamp,
a flame nubile fluttered.
Within that small, delicate lamp,
a million storms were cluttered.
I need to pause and weave for it a safe nook.
Yes, speak, I’m listening. But look,
give me some time.

A gurgling stream, joyously jumping,
flowed by here yesterday.
A group of swallows, chorally chirping,
flew by here yesterday.
I need to halt and pick up the sounds of birds and brook.
Yes, speak, I’m listening. But look,
give me some time.

Tunes of the world

She was born with a smile
Lucid lustre, captivating charm, an impeccable style-
People saw in her dancing, once she turned four

Her feet tapped in sync with her heartbeat
They had rawness of a sleet and sweetness of a greet
Up on the stage she was now taken, but had 'others' to dance for

She started dancing to the tunes of the world
Lost was her aura, her heartbeat no longer heard
Her dancing was lauded and cheered, yet she was saddened to the core

People thronged in to pay her tribute
For eternal peace she lay, her melancholy burnt to soot
Loss of a dreamful dancer it was to the world, but she relished having herself to dance for