I did not tell my child about Ravan.
Because I didn't want to sow hatred in his mind.
I told him the story of Ramayan but kept from him the abduction of Sita by Ravan.
I told him that Sita lost her way in the jungle. That Ram and Lakshman scoured the forests for 14 years, found her in a cave and brought her home.
Because I did not want to sow hatred in my child's mind. For Ravan. Or for that matter, for anyone.
Hatred is an unconditional evil.
When he grows up, he may read the story for himself and form his opinions as a free thinker, I thought.
Having told this story of Sita losing her way, for years, I have myself come to forget the episode about the abduction of Sita and now imagine, in fact half believe, that Sita indeed lost her way in the jungle.
Although I know, it is not true.
Since I don't narrate the true story anymore and don't paint vivid pictures of it in my child's mind and hence do not conjure up those images in my own, I have also forgotten the sensations that the details of the deception and the violence once evoked in me.
The fear when Mareecha appeared as a golden deer before the hermitage, the annoyance at Sita's adamancy about wanting to possess it, the anxiety when Ram went away chasing the deer that was not, the terror when Mareecha let out a blood curdling cry in Ram's voice, the dismay when Sita sent even Laxman away, the despondency when she crossed the Laxman Rekha, the horror when Ravan shed his disguise of a mendicant and showed up as a demon before her, the helplessness when he wrenched Sita away, and the murderous rage at his slashing away Jatayu's wing.
With the mind now cleared of those sensations, thorn and weed like, or gnarled roots like, that bound the story, ever so tenaciously and resiliently, to our life itself,... with those sensations forgotten, the mind became fertile ground for all the next step.
I went further, and told my son that Ravan was a scholar, a learned man, a great devotee of Lord Shiva, had performed severe penance, and earned many boons by pleasing the Gods. That he had built a mighty Kingdom, rich and prosperous, with grand avenues, beautiful gardens and palaces that were all made of gold.
Because that is true,
and you must give credit,
where it is due.
When my son asked about that Apsara that Ravan had siezed, outraged, and subsequently earned the curse of, I pointed to the amorous Indra, a deity we all worship, and to his lustfully coveting the wives of even Rishis.
None of us are black or white, we are all grey, and all people are equal, I told him.
I wondered who had told him about that apsara Ravana had coerced. How could they sow hatred in a child's mind?
My son passed that story to his son, taking caution to further polish and refine the story, removing some more rough edges, so all characters appeared the same shade of grey and hence more equal than before.
When grandson asked why Ram and Ravan had fought, my son told him they fought over territory. It was common for kings and emperors those days to do that.
Grandson was angry that Ram had attacked a scholar, a learned man like Ravan.
He was angry that the diabolical Hanuman had set fire to golden Lanka.
That Ram had exploited innocent monkeys to further his ambitions.
That Vibhishan had betrayed his own brother and committed treason.
That Ram had misappropriated Pushpak Viman from Ravan.
As for Bharat, he had wasted away, leading a life of stagnation.
He should have moved on.
Many generations of grandsons have come and gone.
Today, Ayodhya is covered with festoons, flowers, lamps and lights. Preparations are complete.
For the grand coronation of a descendant.
One thing had led to another and Ravan had become a hero.
And now, there is not a thing I can do about it.
I want to tell them the truth about Sita but the bells and conches are all clanging praises of Ravan and my voice cannot even be heard. When I did tell them Ravan abducted Sita, they said, so what, Ram himself sent her to forest in the end anyway, and laughed.
Perverted intellect was a by product of free thinking. When it did not have
Truth in its root,
nor justice as it's pursuit.
I was right. In not wanting to sow hatred in my child's mind.
But foolish, hypocritical, irresponsible and short sighted.
In keeping the Truth from him.
In not seeing love and hatred in the larger context of Truth.
In not understanding their delicate ties with Dharma.
In not knowing
that the body needs the bitter
as much as honey and sugar
I should have spoken the truth and nothing but the complete truth.
On that slippery road of interpretations and half truths that do not take you home, I should not have taken the first step.
I should have spoken the truth.
Whether or not it was secular.