Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Out of titles. Just read on, will ya?

Happy new year to that meagre section of the world's populous who happen to read my blog. May the year bring everyone happiness, peace, prosperity yadda yadda yadda ... and now to the main point of my blog.

These days a lot of philosophical, vedantic, bordering_on_mid_life_crisis questions have been arising in my mind. And so I turn, as usual, to books for the required solace. I present to you now a passage from the book that has captivated me currently.

"...And all the bridges over rivers were destroyed and boats forbidden to ply, and the trenches (around the city) were spiked with poles at the bottom. And the land around the city for full two miles were rendered uneven, and holes and pits were dug thereon and combustibles were secreted below the surface. Our fort, O sinless one, is naturally strong and well-defended and filled with all kinds of weapons! And in consequence of the preparations made, our city was more prepared than ever to meet the foe..."

The city that's being talked about here : Dwaravati or Dwaraka
Speaker of the words : Sri Krishna
Speaking to : King Yudhishtira, the Just
The Book : Mahabharata

If I'm not mistaken, that emboldened line in the passage I think refers to a landmine. A bloody l.a.n.d.m.i.n.e. Mentioned in a book that dates as far back as 3100 B.C. Wow. WOW. If you thought Jules Verne writing about the submarine a good god-knows-how-many-years-before-the-thing-actually-got-invented was fascinating, what would you think of this? And the fortifications mentioned in the book are amazing down to the very last detail. Trenches dug, well stocked food and water supplies for the soldiers, cannons, bullets (yes, bullets), and get this - every soldier paid in gold and no soldier or his family left unpaid or dissatisfied. The Indian government would do well to take a leaf out of this book and increase the paychecks of the its defense forces eh?

To summarize :
3100 B.C.
Sense of security? Check.
Good governance? Check.
Prosperity and happiness all around? Check.
People's faith in their rulers? Check.

2010 A.D - An advanced world.
Check's bounced.


A second observation. Sri Krishna who many believe to be the incarnation of Sri Maha Vishnu, was Himself the head of that city. All He had to do was just think that Dwaraka was to be safe, and it would have been. But no, even He with all His Almighty-ness had to work to keep that city safe. He did not, and neither did His citizens think that just 'coz the mighty Krishna a.k.a MahaVishnu was their protector, they could just sit and do nothing and leave it all to Him. They defended their city with all the necessary safety mechanisms in place. This despite knowing very well that the ruler of that city was none other than the Lord Supreme Himself! Great lesson to be learnt eh? No matter who you are, you still got to work.

While reading the M, a thought crossed my mind about that other epic, my personal fav - the Ramayana. So this is my theory.

In the Kali yuga, the Srimad Ramayana, in my humble opinion, works better for every individual than the Mahabharatha.The Sri R was in fact, probably written more for the Kali yuga than any other. Think about it. The Mahabharata introduces the concept of gray in human nature, while the Ramayana is mostly black or white. When gray comes in, it takes a person of extremely clear vision (the likes of which include Sri Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa Himself) to do the morally right thing.

The Ramayana one the other hand, is quite straightforward in its morals, no confusion there at all. Be a good son, be a good wife, a good brother, father, basically be a good person, but when something bad happens, don't chicken out saying 'All is god's will' but get off your b*** and do the thing that you need to do to make it right. The Mahabharata also gets that point across but well, as I said, in the splashes of black, white and gray thrown at you, one takes time. That's my take at least.

Another point is that the Mahabharata raises a lot of questions. Too many questions. And sometimes, those that aren't very comfortable in nature either. If you keep up the reading, you'll find your answers, but if you give up, those bugging questions will just take root and colour your opinion of the epic. And your thoughts of everything else too.

At the end of the day though, I really do think that the ancient epics of India are the most gyaan-giving books that one can ever find. In the guise of millions of characters, in the garb of wonderful stories, they teach you to be what you need to be, to get to where one eventually wants to go. They let you question, and they will provide you with the answers. Just don't stop mulling over what you've read and just keep reading.

In an India that is fast developing/westernizing/rapidly-marching-ahead-and-in-the-process--perhaps-loosing-its-core-traditions-and-value-systems(?), these ancient beacons of light I think provide a sense of grounding. And sanity.

All in all, here's to my reading many many more books this year. Not to mention blogging about them. :)