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‘Log kya kahenge’ is an illness Indian society has. So much that is wrong with it is because of this fear of what people will say, since ancient times, even found in our epics.
As a 90’s kid I grew up watching the Ramayana every Sunday on national television. I loved it; somehow it had and still has, a soothing effect upon me. The characters are beautiful yet simple and graceful at the same time. On the one hand, there are so many things to learn, yet on the other hand there are too many questions left unanswered.
Since then I have seen the repeat telecasts of the same or different versions on various channels. Read books of and about this epic. Spent countless hours googling for insights.
When I came across Devdutt Patnaik’s Sita, I just had to read it. And this book definitely answers a lot, if not all of the critical questions. These questions are important for me, because maybe being a girl or maybe just because I am sensitive to women’s issues.
Don’t know why but I have been searching for the answer to why Ram, the ideal king, asked for his pregnant wife to be left in a forest. His actions being the most noble, to be replicated by all his followers – then why did he set such an example? Was it the right thing to do? I have many a times searched for answers, but all I could ever find was how Sita had the abilities to survive in a forest, how she was Earth’s daughter, how she raised her sons alone till they were 14, how she trained them to praise Ram, sing songs about his glory.
On one side Ramayana shows Ram as a normal human being, a righteous king, who wants to set a good example and leaves his wife so that his people feel that he did the right thing. And on the other hand, the same Ramayana glorifies Ram as God incarnate, who defeated the greatest evil in the form of Ravana.
So Ravana kidnapped somebody’s wife, and as a result we have spent centuries burning his effigy, and adding to the already polluted air. And the one who asked for his wife to be left in a forest, without so much as a confrontation, he becomes God, and is worshipped, his name a mantra in itself!
If it were me, I would rename Ramayana to Log Kya Kahenge or ‘what would people say?’
Kaikeyi asks Dushratha to grant her the pending three wishes. Send Ram to forests for 14 years. He has to keep his promise, otherwise log kya kahenge that a Raghukal king did not keep his promise.
Ram keeps his father’s promise and leaves for the jungle. Because log kya kahenge that a son of the Raghukal clan refused his father’s orders.
Ram rescues Sita and takes her Agni Pariksha to test her purity. Because log kya kahenge. After all she spent many months at Ravana’s Lanka. What if she had failed this test? What would Ram had done then? After all, she was kidnapped, it was not like she went there for a holiday.
Then a washerman tells his wife some gossip about Sita, and Ram decides to leave her. Wasn’t the punishment of staying in forests for 14 years enough? Or the trauma of being kidnapped and taken to a foreign land enough? Log kya kahenge, better to leave Sita in a forest. So did he go to rescue her just because, log kya kahenge, such a great king could not even protect his wife?
In today’s society, log kya kahenge is a mindset very difficult to get rid of. People crave for a son, rejecting the girl child, just because of this same mindset. An unmarried daughter is a matter of shame, not because she could be unhappy but because log kya kahenge. Rape victims are forced to commit suicide upon being rejected by their families because log kya kahenge.
Isn’t it time to reject this notion? To just for once live a life of our own liking and not make it about what people would think? Shouldn’t we let our sons, daughters, parents, take decisions about their life and to not worry about what society will think? Isn’t it time to write another epic, change the texts, set positive examples?
Is there any cure for the fear of what others will think? Because this one line has been the cause of far more deaths, both physically and mentally, than any calamity ever.
Lastly, just to add a bit of cheer and hope, a few lines from an evergreen song that you can also watch here: Kuch to log kahenge, logo ka kam hai kehna…chodo bekar ki bato ko..kahi beet na jaye raina
Image source: a still from Sita Sings the Blues
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I love writing, it is an outlet, a stress buster as well as a means
For an alternate ending to the Ramayana, I request you to read Seetayana – my version of Seeta’s journey https://umasun1973.wordpress.com/
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