Sunday, October 17, 2010


Happy Dusshera, first off. Bring out the meat laden buffet tables, light up that stage and let the fireworks light the night sky up like the gods themselves are dancing to the music of mortal celebration.

Its a happy day. If you're not from my part of the world (India, once again, just in case you missed that), Dusshera is the festiva that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, the day Prince Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the preserver, defeated in battle the Demon King, Raavan, to free from his clutches Sita, his faithful bride. The handsome young prince kills the big bad king, takes his girl back, goes home, rules his kingdom and all is well in the world of Hindu Mythology. Joy to the world.

Seems a little too simple, doesn't it?

Its a strange world we live in. Year after year, giant effigies of Raavan and his brothers are set ablaze, their falls relived over and over again. Anyone who's ever been to India this time of the year knows Raavan. Big guy, handlebar moustache, shiny clothes, ten ferocious, smirking heads. Can't miss the man. Look a few feet to both sides of our subject and you will find effigies of Indrajeet and Kumbhkaran, his brothers and comrades who were killed in battle right before Raavan's demise at the hands of Lord Ram.

As it turns out, Raavan wasn't all the evil he was cracked up to be.

Think about this for a second, his only sister was physically hurt, rejected, humiliated and mocked by a prince and his brother who, though harassed by her in their own right, were too trigger-happy, too quick in punishing the young maiden Soorpnakha for her overwhelming, albeit over-authoritative, affections for Ram and Lakshman(The brother, hadn't you already guessed).

Raavan didn't want to physically hurt Ram, he wanted Ram to suffer. So he devises a cunning plan to take from Ram the thing he values most, his wife.

The funny thing about the story is, Raavan never touched Sita. Never so much as laid a finger on her without her consent. From the day he captured her, Raavan was overtaken by Sita's beauty and elegance. Having her as his prisoner, he could have taken her by force had she not given in willingly.

Not a finger. Not once.

A year Sita was captive at Raavan's kingdom, not a single day was she treated as a prisoner. Raavan kept her under close watch, no doubt, but she lived like a queen, with every luxury she could ever have asked for. All this for no return of affection but the tiny glimmering hope of someday winning over the woman he'd come to love, but wouldn't demand against her will.

Not. A. Finger.

You know how the story goes. "Good" wins over "Evil", Ram kills Raavan, gives their people a new, more widely acceptable king, goes back with his wife and lives a happy life.

One twist though, Ram doesn't just take Sita back.

He refuses to have her back at all. She had, after all, spent a year in the company of another man, said Ram, who was to ascertain her purity.
Of course in those days of no lie detectors and pulse readers one had to resort to more primitive measures of discovering the truth. So Sita was made to walk through a fire created by the God of Fire, Agni, to know if she were still "Pure".

Convenient, I know. But as any arthritic octogenarian will tell you, "Things were just simpler in the old days"

Here's what I'm thinking though. Ram knew he wouldn't take Sita back. Had the gods themselves not intervened, he'd have left Sita all by herself, and he knew this before he went to battle with Raavan.

Why'd he fight Raavan then?

It would be pure blasphemy to say it was pride, for Ram is an incarnation of Vishnu himself, and surely the gods are above things petty as pride. Was it love then? Love for the woman who stood by his side, walked out of his kingdom by his side under no legal or social compulsion whatsoever, simply to support her husband in his time of need? What, then, stopped him from bringing her back once the Demon King was done and finished with?

Ram was a brilliant ruler, and the part of the Ramayana after Ram's return to his kingdom will tell you. He was a kind and benevolent man, as the same story tends to imply. But he was no saint. He placed his principles above all else, even justice.

Raavan, on the other hand, did whatever he did out of pure hatred for Ram for the pain and humiliation he inflicted upon his sister, someone he loved dearly and cared for.

All our Good Hindu lives we've been fed stories of how Raavan is the symbol of evil and burning him, recreating his death over and over again is how we remember that the power of good always triumphs over all that is bad in the world.

Raavan, the ruler of a Kingdom much larger than anything Ram could have ever reigned over, a man whose power the god themselves feared, yet, a man who never let his power overthrow his morality and good sense. A man who never impeached upon another man's love, in spite of all his hatred and contempt.

I'd say there are far worse things in the world.

So bring out your torches and let the Fiery giants light up the world with their exuberantly glorious downfall. But not Raavan, for there is far worse evil in the world that we need to cleanse.

It's about time we started killing those who deserve the contempt of millions of people across the country. So let the torches burn for the church-men who guide innocent children into a world of sexual abuse, for the blood-thirsty power-seekers who destroy lives and families to ensure their stranglehold on the community, for the rapists and murderers of the world for their blatant disregard for basic human rights.

Let the torches burn for what we know is evil, not the evil we've been brain-fed all our lives.
Let the torches burn for the truth.

Happy Dusshera, everybody.