Bhaktas, politicians and terrorists this is Baba Bangali making an appearance at this space after a long time. This past week was Ram Navami and since the elections are around the corner, we decided to feature our most psephologist friendly deity this election season. There have been many deities who’ve had an objectionable streak but there is only one who flirts with controversy like Yuvraj Singh with a ball outside the off stump. If controversy were a religion then there could be only one true god and that would be my friend Shri Rama(SR). While he had his share of controversy during his time after facing a torrid time in exile and having his wife kidnapped. He had to cross the ocean on a man-made monkey-made bridge and fight an army of demons to retrieve his wife. If that was not all he had to banish her to the forest not to mention asking her to walk through flames to prove her devotion. Now after such an episode you’d expect to have a peaceful afterlife with your portraits hung in homes and devotees singing hymns. Only if things would go as planned, but do they ever? He has the privilege of being dragged into demolition of mosques, burning of trains, dredging of limestone shoals and even beating up young women. All this is not including the various promises made in temple construction and political mud slinging on election manifestos. Who’d even dreamt that the son of Dasharatha would go on to be embroiled in controversies centuries after his time. It’s often said that though we chose our paths, what ever is destined eventually will happen and not even deities can escape from fate. At the same time who’d ever thought that he’d drop by this blog for a chat with me and an exclusive feature like never before. So lets welcome my buddy SR as we get chatty on controversies, politics, some mythology and bridges.
BB: Welcome to DappanKoothu Rambo-man, how does it feel to be the most controversy friendly deity?
SR: Ha, like I have a choice. Thank you for inviting me though. Like you mentioned in my introduction I could only chose the path of righteousness hoping it would lead to the right doors. Fate has it that I’m remembered for murkier things as the years go by.
BB: C’mon you don’t have to say that people remember you for the good things you’ve done. Promises of good governance are made and are called as ‘Raam Rajya‘. The Ramayan is read in homes by all elders and you story is enacted every year by ‘Ramlila‘ troupes across northern India.
SR: At what cost? They call it ‘Raam Rajya‘ and present a corrupt and hollow system it often leads people to think that that probably was how times were under my rule. The even the movie bombed, so tell me Baba what are you referring to?Ramayan is read only in K-serials by the oldest character in the daily soap and it is only a decoy as they snoop and eavesdrop on the household gossip. The ‘Ramlila‘ is no longer a popular event and is reduced to churning revenue less than a local village fair. Heck I believe they used it as a running theme in a movie and
BB: Ok you seem to be way smarter than you look and are well versed in current affairs, so lets move to a more comfortable area and talk about your life. How did you exactly feel at the precise moment when you father asked you to leave the kingdom and go into exile?
SR: I see you are a fan of that Barkha female , what are you expecting I’d answer. Its not rocket science to expect that I’d be shocked out of my wits and heartbroken. I was crowned king in the morning and then stripped of my throne later in the day. What were you expecting I’d say, do I look like WWF special envoy who’d clap his hands in joy at the very mention of the forest? Also I wasn’t going camping over the weekend, I was being exiled for fourteen years that’s three soccer world cups if you know!
BB: Well that more sounds like an Ramanand Sagar version showed you embrace your fathers orders and leave the kingdom with a smile on your lips and a tear in your eyes.Olympic gold medalist being stripped of his medal after failing a dope test the following evening. All I ask is because the
SR: Oye, welcome to the world of television Baba. You think if they’d shown me stomping out of the kingdom it would have earned the same TRP? The smile on the face and tear in the eye scene enabled hem to play out close up scenes and sad music and stretch it for 20 minutes in slow motion. Add to this the numerous commercial breaks and gut wrenching drama that had viewers stuck to their seats and forgo their Sunday breakfast!
BB: You make a valid point after all you are from the illustrious Raghuvamsha! Let’s move to the abduction of your wife. You think that episode could have totally been averted had your brother not cut off Soorpanaka’s nose?
SR: Ah the famous nose-cut fiasco, I knew you’d bring it up. Well see Laxman did not literally chop her nose it was more metaphorically as they say in Hindi ‘Naak kaatna‘ which translates to insulting someone. You see he was away from his wife and missed her badly and when he saw this rakshasi in the guise of a beautiful damsel he was done by her charms and soon landed in her arms. What followed is PG-13 but you can imagine the rest. Trouble occurred when at a crucial point she asked him to ‘Say her name‘ and he blurted out ‘Urmila Urmila‘. This incensed her and she felt insulted, so you can’t blame a married man missing his wife to fantasize her!
BB: Whoa, They didn’t show this version either nor is it in any of the books. But then I’d take it since it’s form you. It’s funny how Laxman fantasized Urmila while in Soorpanakha’s arms for in our time we had a certain Ramu who fantasized a ravishing Urmila! That’s another story but you must share with our readers your feelings when you realized that your wife was missing. Did you know she was abducted or did you fear the worst, what was exactly running through your head?
SR: A man these days hits the bars and clubs when his wife goes to visit her parents for a couple of weeks. Here Long Islands, but then it soon get lonely in a forest without a women especially when you hear the animals making weird sounds. So after a day of merry making I began to miss the nagging and then set out to find her. Ofcourse they can’t tell you that so they must have told you that I was distraught, broke down and my tears created puddles. I swore on the mud that her feet had last touched to track her down irrespective of which timezone she was in and take down her abductor. This version sounds more better and TRP friendly so let’s take the other one off-record shall we?my wife was not even in the same country code without a return ticket and clearance at port-of-entry! Given a chance I’d down a few
BB: Nothing better than have another man take away your problems and double his eh? If making a marriage work was harrowing enough he had invited troubles by abducting another mans wife. You however had to seek the support of simians to form an army and march towards the south. How did that happen?
SR: I had no choice, every sane man thought I had lost it when I begged them to help me track my wife. I sent hundreds of messages to kingdoms seeking help to find my wife, I received twice the number of replies saying ‘Take mine‘. I was forced to turn to the less intelligent simians and cook up a sob story of how I missed my dear wifey who was held captive by a treacherous beast. Do you have any idea how hard it is to teach a bunch of monkeys warfare and make them foot soldiers? Damn I could have taught them the ‘Complete Reference Java‘ end-to-end and made them Sun Certified professional in any sweatshop with one tenth the effort.
SR: Cut me some slack OK. They say all is fair in love and war, I was deeply in love with my wife and I wanted war. You are not married and hence you are unaware of the pain of separation. Vali had taken Sugriva’s wife captive and I could not see another man go through what I was going through. Plus he had wronged by stealing his brothers wife, you don’t seem to hold me responsible for killing the man that stole my wife though. Alsotry facing a raging 6ft monkey-man and shooting an arrow directly and then come to me before you ask me another of your smart questions.
BB: So now two wrongs make a right eh, well if you say so! Talking of monkey-men reminds me of a movie that came out recently I see they were a menace in you times as well. Movies also remind me that there is one being made on your arch enemy, The news is that they show him in a different light and the woman he abducts apparently falls for him! Your thoughts please…
SR: Ah brilliant, you not only celebrate him and make ballads but now even make movies glorifying him. Damn he gets to steal my wife, die bravely in war and yet walk away with all the sympathy and accolades. What do I get instead? years of separation from the missus and then having to banish her after a washerman spoke ill of me and then seeing her being swallowed by an earthquake and bring up the kids alone! Despite all this you make him a hero now and even add a supposed love track, damn you people!
BB: That didn’t seem to go down as expected, so lets shift tracks here. What’s your take on this new breed of vigilante who seem to uphold culture in your name. they beat up women for indecent behavior and received truckloads of pink underwear. You were sort of a chauvinist in your time weren’t you?
SR: Hold it there I say, My wife didn’t leave me for another man and infact was abducted. These idiots are using my name to carry out their fanaticism and fuel their own political ambitions. I have nothing to do with their despicable acts and should infact file for a copyright and defamation case. Who gave them the right to be called as my army, my monkeys were far more intelligent than these guys. I think I need toget on twitter and gather a billion followers and then launch a scathing attack on these morons who tarnish my image.
BB: You surely will take responsibility for the burning of a train full of your supporters and the shameful event of a mosque demolition. Hadn’t they taken your name that train would have gone through peacefully and the same hold for your fanatics who brought down a mosque. Tell us, was there really a temple that stood there?
SR: You love to put me in the line of fire don’t you? Are you holding me responsible for a bunch of lunatics who razed a place of worship under the pretext that there stood my temple centuries ago. Without an iota of proof or any common sense a rabid gang of lunatics were polarized into believing that there was a temple and went on with one of the most despicable acts ever seen. Now you ask me if there was ever a temple there, what purpose does it serve? Will it bring back the mosque or the millions affected by the aftermath, will it get rid of the hatred or will people stop and not look for another issue to rake up? It doesn’t change a thing expect for a silly news flash, a bunch of panel discussions, some victory processions and even more hatred and religious tensions. You go on to claim that hadn’t the kar-sevaks chanted my name the Godhra carnage and its aftermath could be avoided. We never ask you to chant our names or build temples for us. We’ve never asked you to burn each other nor do we ask you to destroy places of worship. A few do it for their own selfish motives and the rest are just pawns in this game of power and religious narcissism. So please don’t drag us into this and especially me, I’ve already had my share and wish to stay clear of this mess.
BB: Ah trying to bridge the gap between religion and logic are we. I like the way you think though it doesn’t answer my questions but you’ve evaded them brilliantly. Talking of bridges reminds me of the one you built. There a huge controversy over a bridge like structure that connects Lanka to India and it is said to symbolize the one you built while you marched with your simian army. The starking resemblance it has to the one mentioned in mythology makes it a bizarre case and heavily believable. Do tell our readers the truth behind it and if it is really yours.
SR: I had a haunch you’d save this for the end. You’ve been catching me on the wrong foot ever since we began and now you come for the killlike a fast bowler coming hard at the tail with a sting in his deliveries. There is a section that wants to dredge the said bridge in favor of its rational beliefs and generate revenue to its ports via tolls. There is another section that wants to oppose it sighting its mention in the scriptures and drive home the vote bank advantage. In the midst of all this political mileage my very existence is being questioned and I’m being asked to provide my Bachelors Degree and official transcripts. Look, I frankly don’t care who you chose to form the government just don’t drag my name into this imbroglio. Who cares if the bridge ever was built of the structure you see are it’s remains, does that light up a village. Will proving my existence bring water to the parched throats or a morsel to the under nourished? Will an official copy of my transcripts educate the millions or uplift those without basic amenities? How can you call it ‘Ram Rajya‘ while women are ill treated and children still prone to disease? Why are we even having this discussion in the first place? There is as much truth in the bridge and everything else as there is in this very interview taking place. It’s all about faith and upto you to chose what you wish to believe.
(Image Courtesy: hindujagruti)
PS: Title inspired by this song