20 June, 2018

de Vicky, de Vet & de Vibhishana Syndrome

Rambling me thinks seriously is an art form. Leave alone the fact that it is only me poor idiotic self who thinks like so. Yet rambles too have n need a construct as the free flowing verbiage requires a direction. If it does not have one, where would one go with it or what would one do with such nonsense? Junk it, of course. Let that be, here the construct is in two parts, where the spirited storyteller establishes his identity and explains who he is and then in the second part is the actual story. Are both of them required here as one? Maybe not, maybe yes too... this is quite an unreal experience and cannot be narrated by a real storyteller. An unreal story needs an unreal storyteller that is why the introductory prologue goes on and and on .... it has no faith, no religion, no politics only un-really real happenstances.

This does have the promise to turn out into a humdinger of a tale. Oh wait! What are you asking me?  That the title has confused you? Now you are not at all sure in which European language would this story be narrated, is that it?

Please don’t worry. The narrative is neither in French nor German or any other European language that uses ‘de’. It is in English, yes, the Queen’s English at that. Now it may not be exactly as how Queen Victoria used it in her time or how Queen Elizabeth uses it now. It shall be more in line with how her subjects of England and the Commonwealth of the present day mutilate it indiscriminately. How does that matter??? So long as it is understood, it’s okay no, right? That is what languages are for after all; a means of effective communication, a common tongue that is understood clearly. I was just trying out a new accent and that caused all this confusion.

Do I go on like this always… on and on and on all the time? Not really, it just so happens that I am absolutely free now, free of any and every encumbrance. Yes, I was weighed down and encumbered earlier with a significant weight on my shoulders that was quite heavy. It is gone now. How? Well aren’t you the impatient one, what is your hurry? Relax, sit back and allow me the indulgence of a ramble. There are no rules against rambling as yet. Ohhh … OK Do you want me to start my story in the same manner in which you are used to reading stories.  OK…here goes…like you want it.

Once upon a time in a big city, long, long ago, there was I who had made all the preparations to tell a story and then the urge to inanely ramble overpowered me. Forget ittttt…these standard formats are not my types, also let me tell you the story in the same weird, disorderly manner that I experienced it; much like that paper kite which has broken away from its string and is being tossed about directionless in the blowing wind. 

Who Am I? 
Freedom is the main culprit; it does this to me, especially when it is newly found. One doesn’t have the equanimity to handle it. This is an ancestral issue. My ancestors resided in corpses; before they were cremated. Does that make us Hindu’s? Why bring faith into a discussion where it has no real meaning. We shall take it up more in detail in possibly the story itself if its requirement comes about. The base level qualification criterion was that the corpse belonged to a storyteller. This was compulsory in my family tree.

Rules somehow never really applied to me, while my ancestors at least most of them followed them rigidly, without ever questioning them. They called it tradition. I questioned the necessity of the body having to be dead and as luck would have it I got to live in a live one. A live body of a man; one who enjoyed cuisine, was not shy about loving it and did not bother too much about being lean or mean. If a body is to be my residence why would I ever want a lean one, tell me? I too like my space and so I quite enjoy living in a man with generous proportions like this one is. Given a choice don’t we all want a spacious accommodation? Show me one dude in this crowded metropolis, who if he does not live in one, is not aspiring for a 3 bedroom hall kitchen apartment?
Whoever chooses or acquires small apartments and houses willingly unless she or he is compelled by budgets or other constraints?

So who am I actually? Does it matter? Because there is really no matter.
So who or what exactly am I? However hard you may shake your head in denial, I know you are very curious to know the answer to just this very question.  Am I a microbe like a bacteria or a virus? The answer to that is a firm NO because however and whatever it is that I am, I am not a parasite. Microbes are not that particular whether a body is living or dead or for that matter whether it is a body at all, they just exist, wherever. My kind on the other hand is more finicky and choosy. I share this body with his (the story teller’s) soul. We were housemates, his soul and I. Living with someone in such close proximity allows one to know each other fairly well. Yes. It was in one body and we did occupy different rooms or body parts if you are going to get technical on me insisting that I also be legally and factually correct.

I am a free spirit and I have happily been a part of this body, or shared apartment like you human’s choose to define this particular staying arrangement. His soul and I get along well together it is friendly, well read, quite a wacky one and utterly good company. It had no hang-ups at all of him being a soul and I, a spirit. No discriminatory bone in this soul if I am allowed to use an anatomical metaphor. He and I were actually two of a kind. Souls are immortal and get to occupy live bodies always, whether human, animal, bird or anything that has life. We spirits on the other hand are in reality those souls that do not get live bodies in the first case but corpses.
What really happens is that when a person when alive has both his body & soul together as one package deal. This combination then together imagines, dreams of, and aspires for a whole lot of things before the expiry date of the body is reached. Then we arrive at a case where some of these aspirations having remained unsatisfied, unfulfilled. Now the souls get separated from the dead body after its demise. These souls then do not get immediately swapped or exchanged with another live body. They actually do not get to live in either live or dead bodies but are found flying aimlessly. Without bodies and continuously flying here, there and everywhere, they too get tired and stressed out, so what if they are souls. They too need a home base. Have you grown up thinking that the souls are always stress-free and never have a chance to be stressed? They do, it is the stress from the pursuit of release.  When would they be released from this open nomadic existence? These souls often end up making certain geographical locations like trees and forests or even apartment houses their homes. Their penance is to get these aspirations achieved off, that is check marked on their incomplete bucket list as quickly as possible such that they their release is achieved. Every such unsatisfied soul is in a hurry to get its release and often are found abounding the same area where their original body stayed. Souls too like their comfort zones.

Around such zones, because people do not see them visibly, there exists this huge unleashed energy openly out to fulfill the departed body’s aspirations. This is the force that is often sensed by some humans and it scares the living ones. Just because these souls do not leave those geographies till their job is complete, they move around in that locality and haunt the area. Hence the people who sometimes sense n feel this energy  strongly refer to these areas as haunted. We are the Vet’s … that’s what we prefer to call ourselves. Had it not been for Vicky we would not even have been known. Vicky … Ohhhh !!! Don’t you know that dude who hung around with my great-great-great( and several more hyphenated greats than I can’t count on my finger or waste words by writing them here) grandfather. He was the king Vikramaditya. Our family tree branch is the vertical where we have a common  surname ; Vetal.

I am a spirit of the same kinds but I was granted shared residence into this body by the friendly soul. My famous ancestor mostly resided on a tree but when it came to Vicky he had chosen his favourite spot.  This place has been our favourite, always. He used to love the nape of the neck of Vicky. Oh, who was my ancestor? He did not have a name either but his name became attached to that of the great king Vikramaditya and their journey together is recounted as popular bed time stories in many parts of this country as the stories of Vikram & Vetal. They were the most happening star story pair from the 11th century till the 16th century until their popularity was usurped by two unlikely pairs. One pair was that of Tenali Rama & King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara and the second pair was that of the Emperor Akbar and Birbal, one of the nine gems in his court.

Be it as it may, Vikram and Vetal set the conduct of us Vetal’s on this planet. I come from the family tree of the common Vetal’s and since I definitely do not see myself as a common Vetal, I call myself “the Vetal”  or “de Vet” in short. So there you are …. Have you now been properly introduced to me now? I hope I have been brief enough? There are also times when I do love being crisp and to the point. I tell stories and never pose a question at the end of it… no moral, who do you think I am, an Aesop? I do not need any answer on any moral. In fact most of my stories are about people who are immoral.

Ahhhh!!!! So now your neck feels a weight is it? That is because I have mounted it and have settled there. You have been warned, I shall remain on your neck forever unless you read this till the very end … got it?

Epically Erudite : 

The Vibhishana Syndrome  and the Immoral Silences.
He splashed water onto his face after waking up, squeezed the toothpaste on the brush and in an absent minded manner of a daily routine and habit started brushing his teeth. He just so glanced in the mirror above the wash basin. What he saw in it startled him so badly that he almost swallowed the toothbrush. The ten headed supremo of Lanka, Ravana, was staring back at him from the mirror. He speedily finished brushing his teeth, gargled and cleaned up. Then again splashed some more water on his face and warily looked back into the mirror. 

It was Ravana again but this time he was playing the Veena. He did actually hear Bhimsen Joshi belting out a song from a Marathi movie. The rich baritone soothed him considerably. <--- (click on the link for the song)

Was it a hangover that was playing with his imagination now? Yes, the single malt consumed last night had been quite exquisite. Yet he had partaken of it in his usual measured quantity, nothing that was hangover worthy. When he looked back into the mirror again, it still was Ravana on the musical instrument but also one more face joined his now. It was his pal Raghu. He looked back to see whether Raghu had entered the bathroom but no, nobody was there and how could Raghu have been physically present here? He had died four years ago.

Kush and Raghu were the best of pals since childhood. Once in a game where kids make promises, they too had spit on their palms and shook hands in a pact that they would always be there for each other when needed. Raghu’s dying had not disturbed this arrangement one bit. He visited when Kush thought about him and they communed with each other. Their understanding between each other being so deep that oftentimes they did not even need or use words.

His wife was on a tour. After coming out of the bathroom he made tea for himself, munched on a few biscuits and lit a smoke. Raghu smilingly ambled over and sat in a sofa chair across the hall looking out of the wide open French windows overlooking a lush banyan tree. Kush raised an eyebrow looking at Raghu. He was still confused about the Ravana image in the mirror. It is the Vibhishana Syndrome all over again Kush, said Raghu.

Kush smiled at these words and the particular epical reference. It was that episode which had made them friends. The twinkling eyes of his friend took him down memory lane.

Kush thought to himself recalling everything vividly. It was in school and their 8th standard class, where that question on the Ramayana was asked. “Who Killed Ravana?” The entire class had dutifully written Rama and theirs had been the only two answers that stood out differently. Both of them he remembered had written the same answer and it varied from the rest of the class. The teacher looking at their homework books had called out their names. They had stood up in their places.  Across the class their eyes met, Raghu had smiled at Kush and Kush knew he had made a fast friend. The teacher was not quite irritated with them in reality, in fact he had been fairly open minded and beamed at them. Gesturing for Kush to sit he had asked Raghu to elaborate further. Instantly Kush started assembling his thoughts, in the event Raghu faltered. But that had been an unfounded fear. Raghu went on, stating with abject fluency his own thoughts on the subject. Those words as is, flashed back into his mind today and mind all ye, it is an incident from nearly 35 years ago. He had guessed then that with an imagination, spark and clarity like Raghu's wouldn't it be wonderful if he took up writing someday. He had and unfortunately died way before he made a name for himself.

The man who did in Ravana:
The teacher had looked at the class before he started and said, both of them have answered Vibhishana . The class erupted into a burst of delighted scoffing laughter, a sound that one hears from a crowd relieved to have been all correctly bunched together and not singled out for a rebuke or an admonition separately. Different eyes of the class looked at him with different emotions, fascination in some, scorn in most, disgust and disagreement in a few and a lesser few even had anger writ on their faces at this affront served on the righteous Vibhishana, a character from one of the two most popular epics of India, by one of them with supreme conviction.

Raghu's elaboration began with a question. “Who is Vibhishana?” He asked looking at the teacher and the class. “A side-kick” he said with utter disdain. He is a character who for 98% of the time is not even in the epic, written by Valmiki. Just imagine said he now, looking at the class, eyes blazing “had the Ramayana been a movie Vibhishana is the character with absolutely the minimum footage.” The interest shown by the teacher allowed him to express without interruption.
"Ravana was the eldest of a brood of four born to the sage Vishravas and Kaikesi. The others were Kumbhakarna, Shoorpanakha and the last was Vibhishan. The sage Vishravas from an earlier marriage also had a son Kubera who ruled the kingdom of Lanka. Kubera had an excellent mercantile brain and he amassed wealth in a manner that almost displaced the goddess of wealth Lakshmi from her pedestal, such was his acumen. With it he became a moneylender to the gods and Lanka the island kingdom became the trading capital of the world. If Kubera was smart his younger step-brother Ravana not only was smarter but also brave, generous, brilliant, dashing, talented and assertive. He defeated Kubera and took charge of Lanka. If Kubera had made Lanka rich, Ravan enhanced its riches and glory even further, that Lanka became famous in all the three worlds as the Golden Kingdom or Soneri Lanka. Ravana’s blazing intelligence and smarts earned him the sobriquet of Dashanana or the ten-headed one. Not that he actually had ten heads as was depicted in most pictorial representations but the fact that his one head was the equivalent of 10 heads of scholarly people." The teacher nodded with absolute delight as he paused for breath. "That’s correct" interjected the teacher.
 He continued “Ravana was a just ruler, tough though very fair and his people loved him with a devotion and pride of the greatness and wealth he brought to their kingdom. He was a curious learner and is the first known pilot of his era when he created and mastered the Pushpak Vimana or plane. Like Rama’s father the great Dasharatha, Ravana too was an accomplished Veena player. He was a born king and ruled all that he surveyed. His siblings namely Kumbhakarna and Shoorpanakaha never had a problem with his assertive go getting ways while the timid Vibhishana was perpetually scared. Kumbhakarna and Shoorpankha had joined Ravana in battles and fights but never did Vibhishana." By that time the entire class was hooked at the perspective he was giving to the same story; a story that had been recounted in every household mindlessly over generations.

He again asked a question, “What must have all this achieving by Ravana done to the mind of Vibhishana, has anyone thought about it?” He continued after a pause, “Vibhishana the non-entity must have burned inside looking at his talented siblings, Kubera, Kumbhakarna , Shoorpanakha and especially Ravana.
This differential status of talent and ability was bound to create a feeling of inadequacy within a person, especially when you are the fruit from the same tree. Why have they been blessed like so and why not me? This was Vibhishana’s dominant refrain, growing up, ignoring the fact that Ravana never had things easy for himself either. He surmounted every obstacle in his path, worked very hard at mastering his skills of war, nobility, mastering the art of flight and even the Veena. He did not come blessed at birth with these skills but he gathered them, nurtured them and grew them. And then Ravana took charge of Lanka and Vibhishana seethed inside that he too was entitled to Ravana’s talents and the throne of Lanka. Why, because he too was the son of Vishrawas and Kaikesi.
He hid his feelings of envy pretty well and he started praying to all gods that irritated Ravana who did not even for once fathom that it was being done deliberately to provoke him. Vibhishana created an image for himself that he was the pious and right one. Envy when it takes root in one’s soul can fester and become vitriol. Vibhishan was waiting for an opportunity to get back at Ravana. He waited and waited and in Shoorpanakha’s nose bleed and insult by Lakshmana, Ravana to avenge the insult meted out to his sister abducted Sita. This was Vibhishana’s footage time, his moment and in Rama he sensed that karma and fate is offering him a chance. He grabbed it with both hands and moved to Rama’s side. There he shared every weak point of Lanka and Ravana with Rama; so seething with jealousy was he that he never realized that a code of family ethics was being broken.
If ever Vibhishan became famous for something and immortally known in the epic for anything, it was in being labelled as the first traitor in epical chronology. “Ghar ka bhedi, Lanka dhaaye” is a common adage very popular in North India. Had he not told Rama that Ravana has nectar stored in his navel making him immortal, how would Rama ever have known where to shoot his ultimate arrow that became the end of Ravana? But despite everything, even Rama acknowledged his brave foe and had Lakshmana and others bow down to Ravana in his final moments." The teacher on hearing this spontaneously came over to him and hugged him. He only said, "I love your thoughts Raghu but you and Kush, he said looking at me, for the examination paper do please write only Rama as the answer to who killed Ravana."

Kush remembered clapping on hearing this story, the likes of it which not even Valmiki had stated so clearly with a perspective so different. Raghu had smiled at me then like he was doing now and I had gone over and shaken hands with him. From that moment on we were inseparable. I couldn’t have said the same thing just as beautifully.

While Raghu could be articulate and garrulous he could also be just as crisp and concise. In that one phrase “It’s the Vibhishana Syndrome all over again” he had sifted through the chaff and straight gone to the core of the matter. I nodded smilingly and blew out a ring.

Kush looked at Raghu lounging comfortably beaming looking into the infinity much like he had seen his cats do. Then he shared, "You know Raghu it is not the first time today. When I had gone to visit my folks to give them my book, I have no clue as to why my sister at that time spewed venom. It was pure spite at work and looked at my parents in whose house I was then waiting for them to admonish her on that tirade. But no, it went on and on and on. It was not her tirade that hurt as much as their being quiet. That silence to me then drove my mind to another epical scene and instead of my parents all I saw was that I was in the court of Hastinapura. In place of my father I saw the blind king Dhritarashtra, in my mother’s face I could see the erstwhile princess of Gandhar, Gandhari. My sister’s Dubai returned husband was not on the scene but I could sense his presence and in his place I could only picture Shakuni and on the tirade spewing shrewish lady, I could only see Duryodhana. It was bizarre the scene. At one point I would have got angry but was only hurt as I had no intent to do battle but an invisible bow in my hand twanged. What is happening? Am I going bonkers?

Raghu waited a moment, closed his eyes and then looked at Kush with a blazing bright light shining from his eyes.

Kush could feel the intelligence, knowledge and the power of that gaze on him and again floated on to another page of Rishi Vyas’s epic. He could feel the dirt beneath his feet and at a distance saw his parents mounted on chariots in the battlefield of Kurukshetra and then Raghu began to speak.

“Ahhh!!!” exclaimed, Raghu. “Ahhh!!!! the parental trap , the sisterly avarice and a host of other things is it?” So your parents have crossed over to the other side and are trying to boost up their other child? Have you examined the ‘Why’ of it? Did you ponder over it? Look at your hands holding the smoke. I could just see a bow but the hands were quivering. There was a burst of confused uncertain energy waiting to cut loose but held back from a lack of understanding.

"My friend" said Raghu "You have been ambushed. Betrayal from one’s own is not an easy pill to swallow or face, especially when you do not know or see a reason for it. Let us begin at the beginning. Your epical flitting from one page to another is but natural. You are in shock. And when the soul faces extreme shock it separates from the mortal body and travels and sits onto another, in this case the symbolic characters from the epics who have faced something very very similar."

Let us start with the Vibhishana syndrome. You saw Ravana today in the mirror. You have been projected as the villain of the piece but consciously examine the fact that are you really the villain here? Who was envious of Ravana? His youngest sibling. That is exactly what is happening here. Vibhishana before leaving the court of Lanka during Rama’s siege must have given a sanctimonious speech to his far more just, capable and talented elder. I am sure Valmiki’s vocabulary was limited and constrained. It may have been richer when he had been n led a fisherman's life than after he became a sage. He could never use real  profanity while he was penning his first book in his sage avatar, but had it been the times of today, Valmiki would have used the exact words she spoke, on the mouth of Vibhishana filled with the same venomous righteousness and expletives. Vibhishana was shit scared and when a person who is in a delusion that he is righteous and entitled to all the royal things that Ravana seems to possess he becomes vicious. All sanctimonious schmucks when provoked are like so, absolutely greedy, supremely secure in their addled minds that they are righteous and attack the quietly able. That is what happened here as well. You not reacting to that tirade would have not just emboldened her but given her a sense of correctness and momentary victory. At the end of the day what is Vibhishana known as or for; The betrayal of all things worthy and worthwhile. His value system never was the value system of Ravana. This is precisely what shall happen here. Now bear in mind one thing that they are afraid of you and hence do this, not because of anything else but the fact is unlike Vibhishana who knew the nectar was in Ravana’s navel. Your sister does not know where your nectar is? While you do see Ravana in the mirror, you never ever see Ravana dead because he shall not die in our epic.

Ravana was not too bothered about Vibhishana because he was a nobody. He was only hurt that a family member would choose to crossover to the side of an enemy and betray him. Here too the Vibhishana in our story is equally a metabolic waste. The best one can do with metabolic waste is flush it down the drain.

Now let us come to the second epic and what you see. Your hand may itch for your bow but let it remain there for the moment. In this projection of the images is the stage beyond just betrayal. You have seen the characterizations spot on. This now is a story of the Immoral Silences

The Blind king Dhritarashtra has an entitlement mindset and feels that he is the real king of Hastinapura which was a kingdom actually being run n administered by the regent Bhishma. The subjects merely tolerated the blind man with good humour since he was symbolically on the throne and that did make him king. His queen Gandhari capable though she was has willfully put a blindfold on her eyes. This is because she too knows from the time of birth that her favourite child is ill omen-ed. You may never understand the guilt of a mother on having to face this truth that her offspring is a good for nothing. In order to avoid seeing this truth that could be mirrored to her from the eyes of her world, what does she do? She wraps her eyes closed with a blind fold. Then she plots n plans to set things right for this defective piece. 

Now what happens when you have extremely poor raw material to work with in the first place, how much ever you design well, it just does not have the ability to stand up to the other one that is not. This is her biggest grouse , her frustration and problem. When her effort to prop up the faulty piece fails, the only way to make her two offsprings equal (thank god there are no 100 here, then she would have gone cuckoo much earlier ) is to bring down the able person to the faulty one’s level. The faulty piece has no ability but is full of ambition, the entitlement mindset and the sheer greed inherent to her keeps fueling this guilt in the mother and also feed the misplaced superiority felt by the blind father. This is a self-serving strategy for inheriting the entire kingdom of Hastinapur, without even sparing the mere five villages for the other,you. And these have not even been asked for yet or may not ever be. 

Shakuni is an interesting character. He came back from Gandhar ( read from somewhere outside, like the Middle East, where he had been actually happy and to some extent, even productive ) to find himself as a flunky in the court of Dhritarashtra playing second fiddle to even his own Duryodhana ( the wife in our story ). Now he fuels Duryodhana’s ambition to usurp Hastinapur which he shall tacitly rule knowing Duryodhana has no interest in the actual ruling part but is merely happy to be sitting on the throne, seen as superior and the ruler. The first plot is hatched by Shakuni and it gets put into action smoothly and very well. This was what you did not understand my friend. Here Shakuni too is frustrated both with himself and Duryodhana because there is a fly in the ointment; you, who may not allow his grandiose scheme to succeed. He is smart and sly, and he shall never ever declare himself by coming out in the open. Hence he chooses to remain away and absent himself from most apparent battles, what you sensed is correct. He is very much around and in hiding. The sole purpose is to destroy Hastinapura and Dhritarashtra.

These are some of the dots of your story my friend, will you now be able to now join them? Each one is a distinctly separate dot and there are quite a few of them. You thought it was just the one done dot, greed. You were angry with the displayed greed and it being projected as if you are the one wanting it all. The dot’s are many in reality, what you are up against is a medley of issues; a veritable bhelpuri of misplaced values, like entitlement, robbery,  misogyny, avarice or greed, hate, spite, guilt, sly manipulations, blatant untruths and above all the absolute unfairness of it all.It is very complex this tug of war because the individual motivations also are at cross-purposes with one another. You are the symbolic target for this game of darts. Since they obviously can't throw them at one another they have chosen the rather far residing fall guy. 

Remember my friend, this too shall pass. You shall overcome.

Raghu has done it again; brought forth a new perspective. With clarity comes in a vision and when a vision is sharp and focused the target is clear. 

Suddenly the shoulders of Kush straighten up, his face flushes with energy of an impending battle. Raghu’s words made him tighten the bow string of his imaginary Gandiva Bow. He looks ahead and sees himself standing on the front line of Kurukshetra. He had not started this fight, but a fight had been brought to him. He was damned if he was going to walk away from it, without taking all of them on. The result of the battle did not matter to him now. In his ears he heard the resounding Twanggggggggg of his bowstring.  All he felt like saying was “The Gandiva is ready and in my hand. Now come forth you scum!!!”

An old man walking by on the street below see's Kush standing alone on a higher floor smoking calmly, his eyes glowing with a fierce light of a fight in them. He gets startled by this smouldering quiet look and almost stumbles. Looking up again, the man also see's him in conversation with someone standing alongside and is truly puzzled that he does not see anyone.

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