(I wrote this on May 30, 2007 while in Bangkok. Almost an outsider's view. I stopped for a while and plan now to continue blogging. In short, a re-visit!)
I thought about this blog as I signed an on-line petition protesting to the Governor of the State Gujarat about the latest Baroda episode. I subscribe to the feeling that the British induced democracy and its incredible institutions are on the wane. While they have served us well, they have been modified, partly subverted to suit our own ethos. We proclaim that we are proud to go back to our own true culture. In fact, there is a pressure on us to go back.
We keep raising controversies by the day if not by the hour! (It is no different today!). So I had a few questions! Why are we so oversensitive, is it part of our psyche? Do our great epics teach us how to conduct ourselves? How relevant are they today? Seeking an answer, I chose to read Mahabharata.
Let me begin with the epic story: Adiparva
'On the Banks of Ganga' King Shantanu of Hastinapura falls in love with Ganga and she marries him on one condition.. 'You must not cross me on anything at any time'....They live happily and a son is born and the King is horrified to see his new born son flung into the river Ganga ... The King keeping his promise does not question her.
The scene is repeated every year for Seven Years and his seven sons are thrown into the river Ganga... FINALLY when it happens for the eighth time, the King cannot bear it anymore, stops her and speaks to her harshly questioning her inhuman acts...There are reasons for her acts, which she explains is due to their past actions and curses thereon... but she fades away from his sight as the King has broken his promise and the King lives a life of utter loneliness.
Why Mahabharatha? I had the book by Kamala Subramaniam, gifted to me by Srilatha and Jayaram two years ago. Also, I liked the foreword by Dr.K.M.Munshi, I quote ....'it is a whole literature in itself, containing a code of life, a philosophy of social and ethical relations, and speculative thought on human problems that is hard to rival; but, above all, it has for its core the GITA.......Through such books alone, the harmonies underlying true culture, I am convinced, will one day reconcile the disorders of modern life'.
Another reason was that I remembered that we had a copy of Rajaji's Mahabharata in Pune and I was surprised one day to see it in our locked cupboard. Tara, when asked why, said that the book had some strange stories which may be beyond Nandini who was growing up!
As Nandini is now grown up and would soon be concerned with what her own kids read, I thought it was a good time to see what the book said and how it stood the test of times. I was also curious to learn if the two different worlds could be reconciled!
It may interest some to know that Kamala Subramaniam was my mother's (or my aunt's) classmate and we all grew up on her father's (T. P. Kailasam) wonderful 'Kannada' plays.
First chapter seems to support Tara's views! How would the police act now, would they arrest Ganga for homicide and King Shantanu as an accomplice?
( As I began editing my old blog, I sat up with a jerk as I saw today's papers, 1/9/11. A mother threw kerosene on her 18 month old daughter and set her on fire and then immolated herself. Can anything be more horrid? What kind of Karma is this? Why fate was so cruel to this child?)