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One Smile-Different Perceptions

November 4, 2008
There is an interesting incident at the coronation of Rama, in the Ramayan (I feel like Sherlock Holmes directing Sgt. Lestrade to an important clue in a case). For those of you, who are lazy to look up the story, here it is in short.

King Dasarath of Ayodhya had 3 wives and 4 sons Rama, Lakshmana, Shatrughna, and Bharatha (an aberration caused by the 3 queens who were not good in division,especially by a factor of 3). When Dasarath opts for VRS, he thinks of making his eldest son Rama, the king (Nobody would complain of dynasty politics or family rule those days). Sage Vashishta, the omniscient guru sets a date for the event. The idea is generally accepted by all, except one of his queens who wants her son Bharatha to be made the king. As always unable to make the woman see reason, as she clings on to the 2 wishes he had granted her during a fit of passion, the king has to send Rama to the forest for 14 years and makes Bharatha the king. Unable to bear the grief of his actions Dasarath kicks the bucket (or whatever equivalent container during those times).

Rama sets off with his wife Sita, to the forest to keep his father’s promise. Lakshmana also joins him. In the forests, Ravana, the king of Sri Lanka enamored by Sita’s beauty abducts her. The brothers form an alliance with the monkey king Sugreeva and his deputy Hanuman, after eliminating a minor hiccup on the way, Sugreeva’s brother Vali.

The alliance was a strong one and Rama, unlike Dr. Manmohan Singh did not have to worry about his allies threatening to break the alliance at every turn. And there were many turns in the forest and Rama would never have been able to deal with such pressure. At the most the monkeys only jumped from tree to tree and on one occasion, Hanuman as envoy of Rama, jumped from the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka. Hanuman is humiliated in Ravana’s court. Vibeeshana tries to put some sense into his brother Ravana. Fails and then crosses sides,like the Srilankan cricketers who want to play IPL rather than play for their national side as the former is more lucarative (History sure does repeat itself).

The allies build a bridge across the ocean, (little realizing that this tiny act will become the bone of contention amongst Indian politicians on a future date and a burning issue involving the Archaeological Society of India, the Supreme Court,BJP, Karunanidhi to name a few).They cross over to Sri Lanka and unlike the Indian cricket team, give a crushing blow to the opponents.

Victorious, they come back to India. The 14 years of exile for Rama is over. Rama comes back to be crowned the rightful king of Ayodhya. (Phew, I just managed to tell a epic of thousands of pages in less than 400 words. I knew I was good in précis writing in school, but I did not know I was this good. The secret in school was to take out every third word and string out a sentence. The teacher would be busy counting the number of words; she will not mind what the sentence meant). At the coronation, everybody is gathered for the group portrait (I trust there was no digital photography or video coverage at that time).Everybody notices a wry smile on Lakshmana’s face. Each one of those present interprets it differently.

Sage Vashishta thinks that Lakshmana is mocking him as the ‘all knowing guru’; he had got the timing of the coronation wrong by 14 years.

Bharatha feels that Lakshmana is making fun of him as he is the root cause for all of Rama’s hardships and now he is being a part of the celebration as well.

Shatrughna and Lakshmana are sons of the same biological mother and Shatrughna feels that Lakshmana’s sarcasm is due to his failed brotherly duties.

Vibeeshana feels that while Lakshmana had stood by his brother all through the difficult times, Vibeeshana had deserted his brother Ravana and felt that Lakshmana held him in contempt

Sugreeva thought that Lakshmana was scornful of the fact that he had taken a stranger’s help to kill his brother Vali.

Angada, Vali’s son thought that Lakshmana was derisive of his action of joining forces with his father’s killers.

Hanuman thought the Lakshmana was ridiculing him as he was the only non royal being in the court.

Sita felt that Lakshmana was disrespectful to her, as she had spent a prolonged period in Ravana’s custody.

Rama too feels that Lakshmana is making fun of him for taking back his wife who has been in the custody of the enemy.

Unable to contain himself, Rama says that the coronation will go ahead only after Lakshmana explains the reason for the sarcastic smile. Lakshmana starts as if jolted from a trance and says,“the first day we went to the forest, I made a vow that I will stand guard and protect Rama and Sita for the next 14 years, but as night fell, I started feeling sleepy. I, then prayed to Nithra Devi (the goddess of slumber) and requested that she spare me for 14 years. Since the cause was a noble one, she acceded to my request with a condition that she is free to embrace me anytime after the 14 years is over. I have not slept a wink, the last 14 years and now the moment of reckoning is here I cannot control my sleep.This is the reason for my mirth”.Everybody looks around sheepishly hoping that the others wouldn’t have had the chance to know what had gone through their minds.

This is perception for you. Each one of them present had a fear or guilt that made them perceive a simple act of smile differently.

Here are 2 more views of perceptions:

  1. “There are 10 to the power 11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”
  2. “What we call ‘congestion’ in a train; is actually ‘atmosphere’ in a discotheque.”

The first quote is attributed to Richard Feynman, physicist, Nobel laureate (1918-1988) and the second one to my dear friend and not so noble Kesavan, who we affectionately call as K7. Though K7 is ‘2’ short of K9, he is very faithful and is a best friend.

I, surely, am not responsible for your perception of Kesavan.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Snoopy permalink
    November 8, 2008 19:58

    What happened to Lakshman is the usual stuff. Anyone so devoted is treated with scant respect. Everyone likes the dominant person, who holds power. That is why clever politicians throw out the persons who had initially helped them to rise up in hierarchy

  2. Sal permalink
    November 8, 2008 22:33

    Hi PRG,You are getting better at this.Very nice and thought-provoking post, though I for one, understands how perception works too well.My own personal philosophy is that things are not what it appears. So I take the extra effort to find/ask what they are, and often find that what I perceived to be wrong in most cases.Keep them coming.Cheers,Salil

  3. PRG permalink
    November 9, 2008 23:23

    Salil, Thank you for continued encoutagement.

  4. shail permalink
    November 18, 2008 21:45

    You ARE pretty good at precis writing considering you condensed the epic to a blog post! And that was one long list of perceptions and its absolutely true!

  5. PRG permalink
    November 18, 2008 22:10

    Shail, Thanks for dropping by

  6. Anil permalink
    January 19, 2009 22:43

    Good one … you face it many times in life.. what you think is not what the other person thinks… when you tell something to someone, the other person may take it in a way, based on his mood and perception.. therefore even in this world of email, messaging and phone calls.. there is never a better approach than to have a face to face talk… and asking/clarifying the question/doubt…

  7. September 4, 2010 13:09

    This was one hilarious perception of the epic! Came here from the link you shared at Pallavi's FB update 🙂

  8. May 24, 2013 10:17

    So, the poor epic has become a fodder for your precis and what not. Neat, though.

    Joy always,

  9. May 25, 2013 18:14

    Thanks Sus 🙂

  10. August 8, 2015 21:31

    WOW!!! I
    My vocabulary has been gulped down by some monster I guess…I cannot think of a better word than this little wow!!! Wow wow wow!!! WOW! !!!!!

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