Diwali this year involved lots of cooking, and surprisingly I was the one doing it. This has never happened before, so I wonder what went wrong- whatever happened to the idea of delegating more, and more…
Now cooking of any sort is somewhat mindless; inevitably, your mind starts to wander just when you are at some crucial stage of the process. Usually, this leads to burnt dal, boiled-over milk and lots of cleaning up time on the cook top. Cleaning up tends to be even more mindless. I am sure a lot of writers dream up the storylines for entire novels while cooking a single meal – and maybe that’s why they call it “cooking up a story”. For that’s what they really cooked; the actual meal itself would have been written off long ago.
My mind, fortunately for the sweets, did not wander too far. I started thinking about the legends around why we celebrate Diwali, and spent a lot of time wondering why the soldiers in Ravana’s army would choose to fight Rama.
To start with, what were the soldiers fighting for anyway? Were they fighting for their king’s right to abduct unsuspecting women? Now that does not look like such a great idea. C’mon, there are better reasons out there to fight wars..
There was also the issue of setting precedents – if they fought for this woman, would they not be fighting for all other women Ravana abducts? Given that the Ashoka Vana was already close to full capacity, the soldiers would be fighting every day of their lives. Now that is not why anyone joins the army. You always hope for peacetime, free rations, subsidized home appliances, and ceremonial parades where you can show off your uniform and practice goose-stepping.
So why did the soldiers not revolt or just resign their commissions? Was there a draft? And why did the senior generals just not stage a coup and dethrone Ravana? Was that because most of the senior generals were Ravana’s sons?
Was it just because they were bored, and the army of monkeys seemed like an easy enemy?
Did they even consider that they could have just handed over the keys of Lanka to Rama and said “we love these beautiful buildings and the streets paved with gold. Please do not destroy them. You can have Ravana and any one of his sons, we don’t really care.” This would have also been an easy way to get rid of the huge expense that was Kumbhakarna, and balance their budget in one stroke.
In any case, it seemed to me that the Lankans were in no real danger of any upheaval in the kingdom; the alternative to Ravana was just his saintly brother, which cannot have been such an awful possibility to consider.
So then you would expect Ravana’s soldiers to surrender immediately and start toppling Ravana’s statues, right? Instead, they actually fought back! This is completely unexpected ! Why on earth would they fight?
Was it simply because they found their country at war and decided to defend themselves? Was it because they rallied round their king in a time of war? They felt it was their patriotic duty to enlist?
Now, who could have predicted all that would happen?
I don’t know about you, but I think this Valmiki, whoever he was, wrote great stuff. Who knows, maybe it all did happen sometime in the past.