I was born in a culture that loved, respected and believed in Ram. My dadi would often quote incidents from the Ramayana to drive home a point. We grew up surrounded by the stories of the bal kaand and the yudh kaand, of Lakshman's rage, Ram's patience and Hanuman's strength. We were taught to be dutiful sons and daughters like Ram and his brothers, to be virtuous in thought and in action like Sita and her sisters, not to give in to desires and temptations like Kaykai. We knew theRamayana by heart.
Although I believed in most of what the Ramayana stood for--virtue, devotion, obedience, goodness, karma--I could not quite come to terms with Ram. Somehow, he was too good to be true. The non-conformist in me could never subscribe to his goodness. It always felt unnatural. In any case, what good is the goodness of a man who banishes his pregnant wife--the woman who stood by him in the hardest of times, who served him, loved him and was totally devoted to him? I always empathised with Sita, never with Ram. And that is why I never read the Ramayana.
" Although many great scholars have written about and brought forth Ram as a hero--an ideal son, an ideal king and an ideal man--not many talk about him as an ideal husband or lover for obvious reasons, the reason for which I always had a grouse against him."
When we are young, we often see only our own point of view, eager to establish our identity and form our own opinions. We often fail to acknowledge others' perspective. Maturity and experience however, teaches one to look beyond our point of view, to respect and understand others' outlooks and ideologies, to accept, if not embrace, diversity. Going by this definition, I can perhaps consider myself mature, for I finally picked up the book some weeks ago. I wanted to see Ram's perspective.
Although many great scholars have written about and brought forth Ram as a hero--an ideal son, an ideal king and an ideal man--not many talk about him as an ideal husband or lover for obvious reasons, the reason for which I always had a grouse against him.
Reading and re-reading the Ramayana, I for the first time, could see things objectively. I saw the man behind the god. I saw a dutiful son; a perfect king, and, much to my surprise, I found in him a tender lover and a caring husband too.
Ram is stoic, pensive, and silent, he not a passionate lover, or a romantic husband; his aloofness can easily be mistaken for indifference. Neither does he profess his love for Sita nor sings verses in her praise. The only time he openly expresses his love for her is in his grief over having lost her, so much so that his brother has to remind him that he is not just a forlorn lover, but also a king and he should, therefore, regain his calm.
And yet throughout the epic we find instances that reflect his deep affection and love for his wife. He is always mindful of her likes and dislikes, always considerate about her comfort, always kind in words and action, always respectful of her opinion and the only man to be called ekam patni vrat-- devoted to a single wife. So deep is his love for Sita, that after banishing her he keeps with him a gold replica of hers, which never leaves his side--it is his Sita, his wife, and the only woman he ever loved. But why then did he banish her? My question remained, until he answered it for me, in the following passage from Devdutt Pattanaik's Sita - An Illustrated Retelling of The Ramayana:
"One day Sita hesitatingly asks Ram 'Your father has three queens, one that he respects, the one that he loves or the one that serves him, which one will I be to you?' Ram replied without a moment's hesitation 'He may have three but I will have only one. I shall be satisfied with whatever this wife of mine has to offer me and hope she is satisfied with whatever I offer her.'
Sita said softly with a smile 'I asked you about the queens, not wives.'
'I am a husband now, who has a wife. Should I be the king, then my wife will also become the queen. The two are not the same, Sita. My wife sits in my heart, I exist for her satisfaction. The queen sits on the throne, she exists for the kingdom's satisfaction."
Thus, in one sentence he explained what no one ever could: that he banished the queen, the one who exists for the kingdom's satisfaction and not his wife who he so dearly loved and missed that he never married again. That, once he is the king and she the queen, the wish of the kingdom is supreme, they must do what is expected of them and not what their hearts desire.
I now know why the world loves him, and, for once, I agree with the world.