Apne apne Ram…. to each his own

One of the most misunderstood characters in our Indian mythology is Ram. Who is Ram? The eldest and the most dutiful son of Dashrath, who was the heir to the throne of Ayodhya. Due to the evil scheming of his step mother, who wanted the throne for her own son, Ram was sent to the jungle for 14 years. For fourteen years, Ram traversed the jungle along with his wife Sita and his younger brother Lakshman. In this time his wife was abducted by the Rakshasa king Ravan and Ram fought a war with him to get his wife back. Ravan was killed in this battle and his kingdom was handed over to his youngest brother Vibhishan. When ram returned to Ayodhya after 14 years with his wife, his subjects started casting aspersions at Sita’s character as she had been abducted and was at the mercy of king Ravan. Thus after a test of her purity and her character Ram was compelled to leave a pregnant Sita in the forest, even though she was proven to be pure!!!

What I have narrated above is a very short and maybe a biased version of the epic Ramayana as I see it. I believe as a person grows in age, his perception towards a lot of things which have been constants in his life, change. He starts to see things differently.

Ram is perceived to be a god in our country. He is one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. In my own mind, I see Ram as a man who is trying to stand right by whatever his beliefs are. He is called the “Maryada Purushottam”, which literally translates to “the best amongst men who knows his boundaries and respects them”. when I was younger I saw him as a very cruel person who left his wife and couldn’t protect her just because somebody had raised questions about her character. What my young mind failed to see at that point was that Ram was supposed to protect his subjects as a king too. It was one of his supreme dharma’s or sacred duties. If the subjects could not trust him with their beliefs and their insecurities, and in case he was unable to take care of their insecurities, the kingdom that he had left for 14 years, would have become weaker than what it was when he inherited it.

Ram surely could not keep Sita with him due to the social pressure, but he made sure that she was safe and under the care of an ascetic whom he trusted. Unlike the king of those times and Indian gods too, Ram chose to remain faithful to his wife. He never married and never entered into any alliance with any other woman. He even performed a sacred ceremony with a gold statue of his wife kept by his side. Such ceremonies are considered inauspicious if performed without a spouse. Such was his devotion to Sita. Ram was also a very dutiful son. Ram’s stepmother had made his father promise that Ram would go to the forest. He could have refused to go the forest as he was not bound by the promise he father had made, but Ram chose to honour the words of his father as was expected from a future king and a duty bound son.

I have no intentions of portraying Ram as infallible. He had his own flaws. What I do believe is that he had a choice between Ram as a husband and Ram as a king, and he chose to be a king rather than a husband. This choice may not have been  a prudent one, but it was what he thought was best at the time. That is what i admire, to make a tough choice and then to stick by it, because it makes sense for greater good.

He might not be one of the most colourful characters of our mythology but he was one of the strongest. He is one of the foremost examples of my belief that the test of true strength is not how much a person can make the other suffer but it lies in enduring and braving the odds to emerge victorious.

From Ram I have learnt that to maintain a position of responsibility one has to sacrifice one’s own wants and attain a level of patience. To inspire the trust of people you want to live with, you have to first repose your trust in them, even if it is to your personal detriment.

Ram teaches us to be multi-dimensional; to develop humility. If only we all could try to adopt even one dimension of his character, the world would be a better place.

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a land of contradictions

It is a very fascinating country that I live in and everyday I am amazed to learn something new and gain a new perspective about the Indian society. It is a diverse and a complex social structure. we are so modern and progressive in so many ways and yet traditional and regressive at times.

It has already been expressed many times that it is country of contradictions. Indeed it is. Let alone the differences and diversity in  two different parts of the country, I believe each Indian, as an individual is also an example of how contradictions in oneself can create a unique person. Not that I am underestimating other countrymen to not be examples of contradictions, they too might be. It’s just that our belief system is so diverse that the blend of our conservative and  modern selves fascinates me. we believe in making a mark for our selves professionally but still believe that we are unable to make rational choices for ourselves personally. We dress conservatively, but our thoughts take us to a world which is more liberated that we have ever thought of.

I have met people residing in the most backward of places, with access to no modern amenities talking and practising “modern” beliefs. They talk and practice equality of ideas, equality of sexes and believe in protecting individual liberties. People who respect humankind. Then there are those who reside in the so-called metropolitan cities, have all the amenities of life and still believe that some men are born inferior us and deserve what they get because they are belong to that strata of the society.

For me freedom of thought, freedom to question our surroundings and the freedom to just be, is the ultimate type of freedom. It should not be limited just because I belong to a particular sex, a particular caste or a particular section of the society. This is the contradiction which is beyond my understanding. I know of the most regressive looking households and people who believe and practice such liberty and I also have seen and experienced very “posh” members of the society who believe that the freedom of others is a luxury that they afford them just because the other person is living in the same household such people firmly believe that the freedom given to the members belonging to the household should be controlled. I believe we can be traditional in our way of living but let us be modern enough to accept and appreciate new ideas.

Indian social structure, like many others is changing. We are trying to imbibe new things. I think we should also try to retain the liberty of thoughts that has been given to us as a gift since ancient times. That is what makes us different and unique.