Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mumbai Mahabharata-1

The timelessness of the Mahabharata, I’ve come to realise, lies not in the morals or lessons, but in the dilemmas. As I look out across a murky Arabian Sea, it strikes me that not too far off to the north, the same waters wash along the shores of Dwaraka; or that just a short flight away are the cities that Dharma Yudhistir and Syoddhan ruled.

But the one truly on my mind right now is Bhisma Devavrata.
Imagine grappling with helplessness and impotence all your life – I mean that not in the sense of Bhisma’s vow of chastity, or his sacrifices; but in watching the world around you, in its gory splendour, and being able to do nothing about it.

Bhisma believed in Dharma or Justice, in a world of Order and morality. Yet his own beliefs left him powerless to do anything about the many events that came to pass in his lifetime. He watched, trapped by his notions of inevitability and the inexorability of his beliefs and principles. Imagine his confusion when these principles failed to conquer all. Imagine his despair – it’s not too difficult to do so from where I stand right now, watching three stray dogs fight, and then play on, in the surrounds of a slum that lies nestled between two high-rise buildings, not very far away from a dark, dirty sea.

Like many, Bhisma was not a bad man - Just a man without the answers; a man who both resisted and welcomed change. That dilemma haunted Bhisma for most of his life.

We want to believe in Avatars, not (only) in some metaphysical, divine sense; but in the larger truth that change is possible, that once in a while things can be set right after all, that even if we don’t have the answers, someone else does. Perhaps, that is why despite all these centuries that have passed, Govinda Shauri remains larger than life.

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