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Epic Tales Of Love, Sex Aur Dhokha

Epic Tales Of Love, Sex Aur Dhokha

November 01, 2011

Panic strikes an Indian parent at the onset of Diwali, as she tries to interpret the story behind the festival!

A couple of weeks before Diwali this year, I panicked. The panic was not due to planning the celebrations. It was about how to explain the story of Diwali (or as we call it in the South – Deepavali) to a five year old without the abundance of elements such as love, sex and dhokha!

First of all, there are many versions of Diwali. The one we grew up learning by-heart (and taking pride in knowing the nitty-gritty like names of birds, ministers, yada yada), is the most popular version of Rama and Sita returning to Ayodhya, signifying the triumph of Good over Evil. Then of course there are other versions such as Goddess Durga/Kali slaying the evil Mahishasura.

At the risk of sounding ancient, I really have to say ‘in my time’, we were just told the story of Ramayan and we simply believed it. No questions asked. It certainly is not the same situation today! Five year olds today want to know WHY Rama’s father had three wives, what Soorpanaka was after, why Ravana abducted Sita (and before that, ‘Mummy, what does ‘abduct’ mean?), blah blah blah.

While we try to protect our children from knowing too much about the big bad world, our epics already have their fair share of Bollywood masala. So any Indian parent trying to teach their children the significance of festivals, and the meaning behind the great Epics, is in for a shock.

Take the Ramayana for example. The objective is to make us imbibe characteristics of the IDEAL father, son, husband, wife, brother, etc. Are our great characters – Gods and Goddesses – truly Ideal?

King Dasaratha had three wives, of which Kausalya was his favourite – characterised by polygamy, favouritism and irrational behaviour (banishing his child to the forest) – are we really trying to say he was an ideal father?

Rama and Lakshmana slayed Rakshasis in the forest. Seriously! What are we trying to teach our children? Violence is an acceptable manifestation of bravery?

Ravana abducted Sita. Revenge for Rama/Lakshmana mutilating his sister? Sex? Dhokha? I don’t even want to get into this. It is too difficult to explain this to a child!

Sita. I really feel miserable when I think of her character. We Indians worship her. And why? Because she was the Ideal wife. Sita followed her husband into exile, she pined for him when she was abducted and she proved her chastity by jumping into fire. No wonder we think she is the ideal woman. Hello!! I strictly am not passing on this message (that reeks of male chauvinism) to Generation Next.

Lakshmana – the ideal brother – is always by the side of Rama. Duty-bound, ever subservient, and blissfully unaware of his responsibility towards even his own wife. If only we had more brothers like him.

Rama – Not enough can be said about the Uttam Purush – the perfect man. I grew up with a very romantically ideal image of Rama. Cultured, handsome, brave, noble – in a word, perfect. Only when I had to tell my child the story of Ramayan, did I realise how perfect the character is. As a son, he blindly obeyed his father’s orders. Do I want my son to do that? I don’t think so. I think I want my child to think for himself and choose what he thinks is right. As a husband, he made Sita take an agni-pariksha. The great Epic says it was only to pacify the subjects of the kingdom. Is Rama redeemed? I don’t think so. As a friend, Rama slayed Vali by resorting to unethical means. Is that what an ideal friend does?

So you see, I simply cannot tell this tale to my child in its present form. I do understand that the Ramayana itself has been handed down generations and has obviously and naturally undergone countless alterations. However, even the basic storyline has far too much violence and negativity for me to believe that these are our ideal characters. Characters that we, ordinary mortal, must aim to become.

So after much deliberation and discussion with a group of online friends, this is what I told my child...

Once upon a time, there lived King Dasaratha. He had three wives and four sons and loved them all equally.

Moral 1: Love your family equally. One day an evil maid poisoned the mind of Queen Kaikeyi, and said her son Bharatha should be King, not Rama. Moral 2: Don’t create fights between brothers.

Rama, Lakshmana and Sita went away to the forest. An evil Rakshasi Soorpanaka tried to attack them and they shooed her away (obviously cannot say they chopped her nose off, can we!). She complained to her brother, King Ravana, who carried Sita away and imprisoned her. Period. No reference to re-marriage here!

Rama and Lakshmana took the help of Hanuman and located Sita in the Kingdom of Lanka, destroyed the army of Baddies and returned home to Ayodhya, where the people welcomed them home, by lighting up the kingdom with lights, thereby celebrating the Festival of Diwali!!

Moral of the story: Goodies win, Baddies lose. Aka: The triumph of Good over Evil.

This is what my five year old believes Diwali is about. A festival that simply celebrates Good over Bad. A storyline without much Bollywoodisation. Certainly, this version might sound less attractive because it lacks a good dose of violence and testosterone.

Perhaps I am not giving a complete picture to the next generation. Perhaps I am not dinning into my child’s head, what the typical characteristics of an IDEAL husband, wife, brother or father are.

But you know what? I am happy with this plain vanilla script. A quiet, simple story of Goodies winning and Baddies losing, with much focus on Love, and without any reference to Sex and Dhokha. 

11 Comments

  • Ramgopal bagla
    By
    Ramgopal bagla
    22.07.16 05:17 PM
    Have you ever checked the factors for rise and fall of Buddhism? Study it and you will find reasons for distorted way of Ramkatha.

    Read Harvansh Puran too
  • Ramgopal Bagla
    By
    Ramgopal Bagla
    22.07.16 05:06 PM
    There are more than 300 books on Ramkatha. Which one you are referring?

    If not RAM which character of Indian mythology invokes your faith or interest.

    TRY TO UNDERSTAND MEANING OF RAM
  • yash
    By
    yash
    14.03.15 11:59 PM
    Whatever u are saying is all because of incomplete knowledge of Ramayana. The basic things we know about Ramayana is like a PowerPoint slide show, the gaps are still have to be filled. Ramayana is not only about ramacharitmanas, purans have many things about Ramayana like vishistha puran, shiv puran, Vishnu puran.
    Whether it is Ramayana or Bhagwat Geeta, they all have to be encoded, they have hidden meanings which can only be understood when a person is mature. Children will understand when the come, but the basic knowledge is also important.
  • LalaM
    By
    LalaM
    27.09.12 01:34 PM
    Haha, you gave your children a good story. They will learn the WHOLE TRUE story when they will get older (cause i have read a short version of Ramayana when I was young :D and truly it's for children :D)
  • Achyuth
    By
    Achyuth
    23.11.11 07:09 PM
    Maybe these epics were meant to be spicy bed time stories? Dunno.
    But I do know that the Bhagavat Gita has a lot that we can learn from, we and our kids :)
    I absolutely loved your take on the Ramayana :D
    Kudos :)

  • Writerzblock
    By
    Writerzblock
    07.11.11 03:53 PM
    @Harry: I didn't mean to say that, it was the most simple example I could think of. I have the deepest regard for our Epics and don't mean to offend sentiments :-)

    @ Sunil: Thank you very much. I like the fact that the simplified versions that you read as a child did not result in disappointment, but on the contrary, they were a sort of precursor to the delight of reading the original.
  • sunil Varma
    By
    sunil Varma
    07.11.11 01:33 PM
    Epics and mythology are essentially great stories of that time.But somewhere down the years it got twisted into religion. My personal take, though i am not theologist, we should stick to them as great stories.
    Kids love stories so these epics should be told as stories and nothing more. The objective of a story is to Bond with the child and entertain him/her in the process imbibe a value. In the current context a 5 year old need to understand only one thing: "Good guys win... Baddies loose". so one should be Good...
    A rundown version is great, in fact recommended. If the child grows up and loves to read then he/she can pick up an unabridged classic. I read illiad as a child but it was a series called Great Books in easy english, it was a 100 page pictoral version of the story. many years later when i read the actual book i loved it as much as i read it first time.
    so i agree with the autor it is better to keep these epics as stories and tailormade to the age of kid.
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    02.11.11 09:50 PM
    I get your point PALLAVI, but Ramayana is not an adult channel contents but like you said, it is our duty to safe gurad our kids.
  • Writerzblock
    By
    Writerzblock
    02.11.11 06:59 PM
    @ Bharat:
    Thank you for your feedback and the informative links. Just to clarify, I am 'not blaming the Ramayana' for anything. My post was not about Hinduism either. It was merely about why I think narrating the entire Ramayana, in detail, is not appropriate for children.



    @ Harry:
    Thank you for taking the time to comment. With regard to the 'Ramayana being lost in translation', the Epic has been handed down over centuries, and interpreted by various people in different ways. There is no saying if the Ramayana - as we know it - is even the original version. So one insignificant parent tweaking the tale for her child will not really result in the Epic being lost.

    Having said that, you are right when you mention 'Reality and truth should be told as they are'. However, there is a time and place for everything. I don't think a 5-year old child needs to be educated about the practises of polygamy, favouritism, violence, lust for someone else's husband/wife, etc. Kids are like sponges, they absorb whatever we tell them! So why not focus on keeping things simple and understandable?

    I would definitely not call this 'hypocrisy', but only careful screening of what is appropriate for a child to see/hear/know.

    To give a very simple example, this is akin to watching TV. One doesn't let a child watch an Adult channel, though that is available and is partly about reality.

    But we all know, that reality can wait. For a time when the child is older and able to understand things and differentiate between what is right and wrong. Until then, I believe it is the parent's responsibility to show them the good side of things and keep the gory details out of their life.
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    01.11.11 11:38 PM
    Dear PALLLAVI
    If everybody told the story the way you wrote, then within next few generation Ramayana will not exisit. It will be lost in translation of the PC thinkers. The only problem with this is our children won't know which version to believe , the one that his mum and dad told him or the one written in books.

    Think about the implication, if all our historian told us diffrent stories, then the world we know, would not be the same.

    Reality and truth may not fit in your ideal box, but that doesn't mean it should be descarded. The truth and reality should be explained as they are. When your child grows up and finds out, that you lied to him/her , you are psychologicaly telling your child that, it is ok to lie.

    The point I am trying to make is, you were hurt, when reality didn't agree with you, regarding all the stories of Ramayana thus the title of the article.

    You want your child to make up his own mind, yet you doctor the story told by generations before you . This is a hypocrisy own your part, yet you say, you want him to know the truth, but on your terms , so who do you think will teach him the right version, that you think it's truth.

    Reality and truth are bitter pills which we will have to learn to swallow, and that is the only bench mark our kids will look up to and learn from, not what the charactors of Ramayana tell them to do or did.

    HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY IN ALL CASES.
    " SATYA MEVAHA JAY " = TRUTH ALWAYS WINS. HARRY.
  • Bharat
    By
    Bharat
    01.11.11 01:10 PM
    @Author

    1) Do consider everytime I read a book, it has something new; not because the story has changed, but because I have changed.

    If the next generation puberty age is dropping, the uncomfortable questions will come faster. How can Ramayana be blamed for that?

    Ref: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16882780

    2) Hinduism in much more than Ramayana. Right there in England, at no less than Oxford, is a Center for Hindu Studies. One of the goals of the center is that migrant Hindus can analyze how to pass on their traditions. Hopefully, the author will continue to enrich us from such learnings.

    Ref:
    1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLiDp0DHgVU

    2) http://ced.ochs.org.uk/

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