Friday 24 September 2010

Of Rama and Krishna; masjid and mandir

Over the summer, my father started narrating the Ramayana to Ads, using Rajaji's famous book as the reference. He narrated all incidents and episodes in the book, to a spellbound audience. Back in Noida, I supplemented my not-so-extensive knowledge of the two great Indian epics by picking up a few Amar Chitra Kathas and reading them out to Ads. When my dad visited us for 3 weeks this month, he came armed with the Tamil version of Rajaji's Mahabharata. Every night, I would hear grandpa and grandson discussing the stories in great detail, in their darkened bedroom. As happy as I am that Ads has been introduced to two classics from the Indian tradition this early and displays so much interest in learning more about Indian mythology, I have also rediscovered just how filled these tales are with every kind of human failing - greed, injustice, lust, treachery. Who is supposed to be the role model here? Rama? I don't think so! What about that other avatar of Vishnu, Krishna? His only redeeming feature seems to have been that he was a super-cute baby!
The point is, I feel like a heel asking Ads to cut down on watching Ben-10 because it's too violent even though the themes and situation are completely parallel to what is written in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Where's the difference? In fact where's the difference between the Pandavas and Kauravas fighting for a slice of kingdom and Ads and Y fighting over a toy? The same argument could be made of every historical and mythological drama. I wrote a post quite some time ago about fairy tales being sanitized for children; but now I feel that they offer an important moral lesson - about what NOT to do!!
The growing public apprehension over the upcoming Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi verdict is affecting me personally too. I still have vivid memories of being in the thick of communal riots in Meerut, and lurking with fear inside our Lucknow house as mobs went on the rampage following Indira Gandhi's assassination. This time around, I don't know what hot-headed fanatics will do. I wish someone would drill it into their thick heads that the God they are fighting for probably never existed, and even if he did, didn't deserve to have generations of Hindus and Muslims fighting over his alleged birthplace. I don't believe that religion is the root of all evil (rather a simplistic explanation, that) but sometimes I come this close to believing that it just might be.

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