Why I praise Raam and not Ravana?

The stories of Ramayana has always stirred my thoughts since childhood. Different characters of this epic, whether its Manthara, Dashratha, Viswamitra, Janak, Bharat, Guha,  Jatayu, Hanuman, Angad, Shugriva, Vibhishana, Surpanakha, Sabari or any other  are interwoven in my decision making in personal and professional life. This Dussera, I received many WhatsApp memes, Facebook and Twitter posts praising Ravana and accusing Raam for not taking care of his own wife. This forced to me share my thoughts here.
First admiration of Ravana is found in argument that “Ravana respected Sita though he abducted here”. It is clear from stories that Ravana kidnapped Sita. But it’s not Ravana who respected Sita, its Mandodari (ravana’s wife) who didn’t allowed her husband to bring “other women” in house without consent of that women. Mandodari forced Ravana follow basic rules of household (were one cannot forcefully bring women in house) and told him that if fails to abide these rules, the city of Lanka will burn to ashes. That’s why Sita was kept in courtyard and Ravana strived to get her consent to his wife. Raam ofcourse “Won” Sita, but married to her with consent and commitment (of not allowing other women in his life), while Ravana cheated Sita as well as his own wife. Cheating a women and showing her respect stands as invalid principle for me.
Another interesting argument exists that  “Ravana was great scholar and devotee of Shiva”.  A person who has abducted someone’s wife, a person who has urged a war wherein his sons, brothers, soldiers & subjects died and still don’t want to let go his desire and ego is definitely not a scholar.
Some folklores about Ravana says that Ravana demanded Parvati (wife of Shiva) to be his wife, Shiva (since Shiva is beyond social definitions, he don’t understand concept of wife) says its ok…Ravana can take away Parvati…Parvati gets furious on this boon and scolds Shiva…on what basis he gave away his wife…Shiva said…he can’t understand idea of wife…wife is not property nor its responsibility… nothing is wrong in gifting best creation of nature to a devotee like Ravan …Shiva said it a gentle smile….and also said, that he cannot take back his boon…so Parvati creates replica of her from female frog…which was given to Ravana as a wife named Mandodari. This makes it clear that Ravana worshiped Shiva for the sake of fulfilling his desires and lusts which do not make him true devotee.
The episode of “Agnipariksha” is also very popular and debated. The recent versions of Ramayan (especially Tulsidas Ramayan which appeared after Manu Smirit upholds caste system and patriarchal values) focuses an idea of chastity of women. It says that Raam forced Sita to walk through fire to prove her chastity as she stayed in someone else’s house for a year without her husband. But in original version (Valmiki Ramayana) it’s a very romantic episode where Sita intends to purify herself as soft and shining as gold before meeting her husband after long time. The romantic scene of wife dressing up (purifying) for her husband is interpreted in very narrow terms. Raam and Sita never had an issue of trust, they both trusted each so well that they never ever demanded proof of commitment or chastity from each other (some tv series used Agnipariksha incident to spice up melodrama).
The most important episode of Ramayan which influenced me a lot is when Raam asks Lakshman to takeaway Sita from palace of Aayodhya and drop her in forest. Raam justifies this act by saying that he cannot compromise with ideals of serving people as a king. As a king, he has to support ideas of his subjects however cruel it is and however personal sacrifice it demands. Sita understood dilemma of her husband and moved away from palace to forest without any argument. She knew that Raam is ideal king of Aayodhya (unlike Dashratha who fought many wars and had three wives or unlike Bharat who set entire administration of Aayodhya on “auto pilot” mode when Raam was in forest) , and if she’ll argue to stay with him, Raam would also join her in forest. She wanted to Raam to serve Aayodhya and became role model for upcoming generations. Thus, Sita resolved the conflict between professional life and personal life for Raam. Also, Raam fulfilled his commitments to Sita by not re-marrying to other women after Sita left.
Raam thus choose his professional life over personal life… principles over rule…. sacrifice over pleasure…. duties over desire…. loved with empathy...allowed his kin to flourish...he served his nation…with all wholehearted support from his beloved wife, family and clan….
On other side… Ravana choose personal life over professional life…broke rules…sacrificed others for own pleasure…loved with lust…choose exploitation over empathy…forced his kin to die for him…. he ruled his nation…with no support from his wife, family and clan…

and that’s why I follow Raam and not Ravana…..

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Usages of "Gandhi"

Month ago, a senior government officer visited Sabarmati Ashram and explained me that how much it is difficult to understand Gandhi and complex thoughts, approaches and methods of him. Today i came across similar thoughts in article titled The missingness of Gandhi by Shiv Visvanathan. 
Instead of editing/commenting his thoughts or text; I simply felt to reproduce it here, because it exactly fits into my thoughts and feelings about usages of "Gandhi" in my age... 
...as Shiv Visvanathan says....
I must confess I am an old-fashioned man. I feel out of place and even out of time. I belonged to an age which honoured the self and not the selfie. Yet I feel strangely relevant as I realise my anger and my memories, my sense of classic and craft has something to say. I have stories that are still worth listening to, yet I feel sad when I look around me.
I know my world has shrunk. My icons do not make sense. People have not heard of them. Some even call them my collection of eccentrics. But I want to talk about them. For all of them the hero was Gandhi. Nehru was the future, as deputy. I remember an old wag telling me Nehru dreamed and Gandhi prayed and it was Gandhi's dreams that came true. There were like two octaves in an invisible music we kept hearing. The last years of nationalism had a cornucopia of heroes. What was beautiful is that these ideals were also lived out in the first decade of Independence. 
Joy of memories
Today people say the Nehru or Gandhi era is over. The obituaries sound like celebrations and I admit my nostalgia sounds like hypochondria. When I talk Nehru or Gandhi, or of all my other heroes, I sound like a list of ailments, their missingness seems part of a strange disease. There is not an Alzheimer's of forgetfulness, mine is the pain and joy of living so many memories.
Of late I have been reading pieces about Gandhi. He is called the first corporate Guru. Some would even say he is the original pioneer of CSR. But Gandhi never outsourced ethics. He dreamt it, lived it in the rhythms of the day. Ethics was not an extracurricular activity, a piece of social work to compensate for corporate antics. Gandhi is also attacked for not being as radical as Ambedkar. Ambedkar is promoted as this week's flavour by politically correct radicals without understanding the matrix, the quarrel and the complementarity between the two. So from corporate don, he becomes a lesser Ambedkar. Then the RSS which faded away after assassinating Gandhi, says India needs a statue of Godse. Godse, to them, was not an epitome of hate but a service boy. Gandhi got in the way of the logic of the nation-state and had to be dispatched. Godse to the RSS excelled in the line of duty and therefore needed to be redeemed. His assassination was a clerical act and Godse, a mere functionary.
Distortions of Gandhi
To this regime of forgetfulness and critique, we can add the obscene appropriation of Gandhi by Modi and his regime. Modi epitomises the violence of hate and the instrumentalism of development, where there is no ethics of means and ends. Yet all these distortions of Gandhi are fashionable today.
Recently I saw Attenborough's film on Gandhi and fell asleep. I used to celebrate it and yet it failed to echo with resonances today. It sounded too much like a white man's idea of Gandhi, a Gandhi made easy for the West. I realise there is no easy access to Gandhi. He is eminently quotable but there is no catechism of Gandhi. He is a continuous series of thought experiments. He refuses replication. He wants you to invent your own ethical world.
Yet the complex simplicity of the man, who allows no simplification, is seductive.
Gandhi to me is both craft and classic. He knew his Gita and his Ruskin. He knew the power of the book but understood that the life of the book and the book of life could not be separated. His sense of civilisation covered both canon and folklore, the text and the orality of memory around text. To the over-literate Indian who read a hundred books, his answer was my literacy consists in reading the same book a hundred times. Exploring a book a hundred time is not repetition. It is reinvention and discovery. It is an act of pilgrimage discovering or renewing the sources of the sacred Out of this reading comes a strange book, Hind Swaraj.
We have to stop reading Hind Swaraj as an eccentricity. It is a manifesto and has to be read along with other manifestoes like Discourses on Irregularity, Rights of Man or Marx-Engel's The Communist Manifesto. It is as relevant, as important, and as incomplete as any of them. Gandhi's silent message is to tell the reader to write or live out the rest. Each man or woman has to write his or her own Hind Swaraj like UR Ananthamurthy did in his last book, or Ela Bhatt has done in her 100 miles thesis. 
Absorbing the world
Between Swadeshi and Swaraj you absorb the world. No Gandhian would say: “Climate change is not our problem.” To claim it is a problem of developed countries is to be global. To insist it is a problem for everyman is to be planetary. Swaraj was planetary. The last man is not just a putty, a piece of suffering. For all his vulnerability he owns up to the world. For Gandhi, a pascalian wager is not enough. A Gandhian wager goes beyond goodness has to outinvent evil. Gandhi would not want a justice where the Third World would say to the first, it is our turn to destroy the world. The new consumerism cannibalised the world. Remember Gandhi in his Hind Swaraj wanted to rescue the West from its violence. The new Hind Swaraj would include a critique of climate change. As CV Sheshadri would say Gandhian truth should combine thermodynamic truth, that is, climate change would include life, lifestyle, livelihood, life cycle, life chances in one set. Here the technical, the ethical, the political, the cultural are not separated. A classic is a way of keeping things together and connected.
Experiments galore
But Gandhi was perpetually for experiment. Walking, fasting, wearing, printing, cooking, protesting were all experiments. Morality was experimental because ethics needed to constantly transform itself, work within a range of contexts. Ethics and craft had a lot in common. One had to craft an ethics and make sure it never gets outdated. In that sense everyman becomes a craftsmen responsible for his world. The idea of rethinking waste, repair, fasting are ways of dealing with the world. There are no throwaway cultures or human beings. Healing, caring and working are seamless. Craft as ethics has rigour and style and most of all the inventiveness of diversity. For Gandhi, ethics as craft has to be inventive enough to challenge the new inventiveness of evil. Today genocide, the death of a waterfall or a mountain, the displacement of a people, the disappearance of culture are new forms of evil, where violence is seen as inevitable and death, mass death has no rituals of mourning.  Gandhi did not live to link nuclear war to ordinary violence, genocide to murder, or technology to the military industrial complex. In fact, in his way if Gandhi were asked, “What do you think of modern ethics”? He would have said, “It would be a good idea.”
For Gandhi, ethics could not be extracurricular. It had to be every day. Protest had to link to lifestyle, caring to livelihood, passion to humour so that nothing got dogmatic. The body was the site of ethics and the ethics of the body provided the framework for an ethics of the body politic. The body becoming the tuning fork of a complex world and its problems. Non-violence for Gandhi was not something you associate with war, non-violence was something you brought in to mitigate your war with the world, the violence of everydayness. In that sense ethics gave you agency, not just the concrete, the face to face with your children, strangers, it gave you agency against abstract systems where cause originated somewhere and consequence emerged somewhere else. What we need today is a Gandhi of the concrete combining with the Gandhi  fighting abstract systems, complexities which often make an individual feel fragile, futile and helpless.
In an odd way for Gandhi charity began with the world and public policy at home. The body set the rhythms of the body politic. Ethics set the tone for self-discipline and self-reliance and therefore eliminated mass discipline and surveillance. If you had the conscience, the panopticon as a centralised system of management was unnecessary. The citizen is never passive and  pacifism has nothing passive about it. A pacifist like Thoreau was constantly reinventing society. In that sense civil disobedience  was an attempt to restore civility and civic duty . The human conscience is the greatest cybernetic mechanism invented.
Owning up to mistakes
One has to notice that ethics is not only experimental but full of mistakes and ethics begins by redeeming mistakes. In owning up to the mistake, you own up to self and world. A mistake is an incomplete conversation with the world. Mistakes, the relation between ends and means, the connectivity between life and livelihood, show a new ecology of ethics where the body as biology, as person, as symbol becomes the theatre for truth. There is fragility and strength here as one discovers in vulnerability, the power of resistance. Many students confronting water cannons for the first time during the Nirbhaya protest felt empowered in their moment of vulnerability because they understood the brutality of the state. One wished they would have continued their resistance because protest would have gone beyond mere protest to a deeper sense of alternatives. Years ago, Walt Whitman, the great American poet claimed he sang “The body electric". Our protestors similarly could have claimed, “I sing the body satyagrahic”, if they had addressed both violence and truth of what causes violence Here in lies the challenge of Satyagraha today.
It has to challenge large systems twice, first in the locality and then as a planetary idea. Even in battling or creating work one must have an emerging theory of peace.  Satyagraha cannot be sequestered  as an applied social work project because  ethics has to be political responding to wider issues.
One must remember that Gandhi's satyagrahi was an imagination. Gandhi's ashrams were laboratories where one invented alternative possibilities while the world slept. It was the one place where everydayness as invention as rhythm talked to the future. Gandhi was no luddite.  William Shirer in his biography of Gandhi narrates that the loud speaker was introduced for the first time in a rally addressed by Gandhi. His charkha was not a traditional tool but something reinvented several times. But Gandhi's craft like his ethics followed a linguistic rather than a techno-innovative model. He was sensitive to displacement, waste, obsolescence. His technology spoke dialects rather than attempt to create standardised forms. In fact, it challenged us to return to ethics, he wanted ethics to be more inventive than mere techniques. His creativity demanded that innovation should be more than instrumental. Every man than becomes a craftsmen creating a new commons of ideas to be shared. There is none of the hypocrisy of intellectual property rights which confuses need and greed.
Such a world goes beyond the make-in-India model which only wants to manufacture but fails to ask ethical, ecological questions, where productivity displaces justice. A cosmetic Gandhi threatens India twice, first as a farce and second as a tragedy. 
The man haunts me. His experiments fascinate me. He demands the storyteller. I feel his magic. He made mistakes. He knew it. He did not ask us to repeat it. His leadership appealed to the ethics of my generation. I feel it is time to reinvent it. One senses a world ready for the poetry of it. This essay is a prayer for that other world.

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Since last few weeks I came across readers and friends who are facing several issues in their life. Especially in their relationships with parents, spouse or friends. After listening to them and thinking about my own life I realized several things which I feel needs to be shared among all who are facing same emotional turmoil.
As humans, we are emotional beings. Beyond our biological and materialistic needs, our heart looks for emotional acceptance, understanding and care. This, at larger level contributes to our need for dignity, peace and happiness. Once fulfilled, we feel comfortable and satisfied with our life. The question here is, does it ever gets fulfilled? Do we always get acceptance, dignity, peace or happiness in the way which we have expected? The answer, I am sure is NO for any normal human being. Very few people only can reach upto level where he/she is completely happy and satisfied. This dissatisfaction and unhappiness actually keeps our life active, it gives aim and sets targets for our entire life span. Then why unhappiness, dissatisfaction and avoidance is problematic??
We all have some or other kind of “emotional void” within our heart. This void is filled by other person and this union of self with other person becomes relationships. Parent-child, boyfriend-girlfriend or husband-wife. Any kind of relationship includes more than one person. All person (mostly two) are expected to play a role defined for particular relationship. Being brother has different role than being boyfriend or being boss has different role than being son. If we don’t bide ourselves to these defined roles, it creates a problem in relationship. Obviously, one cannot behave has brother with his girlfriend. :)
The person who is filling up our emotional void is perceived as our “own”. We feel that we possess that person and tries to do everything and anything to keep him/her happy. Like parents cares for their children. With the passage of time, our bounding with another person keeps increasing and passiveness starts appearing from such care. This care infect, is a kind of structure of control we create for people whom we think as our own. This structure of control may be seen as care from our side but it becomes limitations for other one. Parents forcing their kids to study, simple and clear example of this where one wants to play but other person thinks that playing is not good as studying and creates emotional stress among relationship. It is applicable to all our relationship which stops and restrict person to do, think or speak which he/she feels to.

Increasing emotional stress on any one individual in relationship affects emotions of other person too ( if other person is sensitive enough to grasp such irritation or emotional stress). Going back to above mentioned example, forcing kid to study may also hurt his mother but still, she’ll force him. We as humans in given relationships are under constant fear of losing control over other person. Because we think ourselves as right and good. We are afraid that our loved ones may not able grasp or understood things which good or right according to us. This fear, keeps us on toe and we wrap such feelings with so-called care.
Our care is actually a form of control, which we never want loose and expect other person understand this because it is right from our side. If other person fails to do so, it will create series of issues and problems in relationship or breakdown of relationship in long run. “I cared so much for him/her but still he don’t value me” is common feeling we encounter during such phases. What should one do in such condition? Well! I am not sure, but here are some hints that can help to sort out such puzzles of relationships.

  • Stop expecting that you care for some and that person should equally care for you.
  • If other person don’t do as per your expectation, try to know reason behind that, but never stop person for doing, saying or thinking in his/her way.
  • “I am right and you are wrong” is most vicious statement and feeling for any relationship.
  • Try to accept changes in personality of other person. “He/she was not like that before this, why he/she become like this now?” is foolish question.
  • Play your defined role, be a brother for a sister and boyfriend for girlfriend, not a vice versa
  • Think about happiness in terms of liberty and not of possessiveness. Remember, you cannot own a person whether he/she is good or bad.
  • Enjoy every moment of companionship, stop worrying about relationship, self and worldly situations. 
  • Most importantly, allow and accept everything from which strong maturity. Your ultimate goal for is happiness. Happiness emerges from liberations and not bondage.

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