Published in Story Mirror.
“What is found in the Mahabharata can be found elsewhere, but what is not found in the epic can seldom be found in the universe.”
This line perhaps had me hooked to the epic for a lifetime. I have read it several times and listened to many great scholars who speak on the subject. I have marveled at the plethora of situations in the epic which have served as reference points to various aspects of life across time and space. My involvement with the epic grew to a point where I started sensitizing young and not so young audiences to the relevance of the classic. It began with a series of talks and later on I started conducting sessions where people would call out a random word and I would connect it to one of the episodes of the epic.
With each passing session, the words got quirkier and were mostly sourced from contemporary lingo. To keep it short I would like to recollect the ones that captured my imagination the most.
For instance, once a young man came up with addiction and I narrated the instances from Yudhishtira’s life where his love for gambling led to crisis every single time he succumbed to his addiction.
Then there was this time when someone gave the word “Face Time” and I drew the attention of the seeker to the famous scene in a famous south Indian movie called Maya Bazaar where Abhimanyu and his lady love would have rendezvous by talking to each other on a mirror which would transform into a screen during “Face Time”.
When I was given the word “Deforestation” I had to narrate the entire epic, albeit briefly when I had to relate how Arjuna and Krishna set the Khandava forest on fire in order to construct Indraprastha. The prologue and the consequential aftermath of destroying the forest hold a mirror to the fact of how the spurned serpent king Takshaka turns tables on his assailant’s several generations down and stings Parikshith the grandson of Arjuna and thereby the rest of the world for decimating the forest and its inmates.
More recently during the lockdown, one of them wrote to me and asked me to relate “Self Isolation” with the epic. I jogged my memory a little and came up with the same tale of Parikshith who incurred a curse from sage Shringi to be dead in a week’s time from a snake bite. The petrified king thought out the situation pragmatically. He got a royal residence built on a tall tower and moved in. The food, drink, and even the very air that he breathed were scanned before being permitted into the premises. Takshaka (read novel coronavirus) managed to enter the premises in a lemon offered by a Brahmin and sting Parikshith. This episode speaks volumes of the power of Karma.
Everything is interconnected in the universe. Even if one strand of the web is violated, it can spell out doom to all its residents. We the denizens of our planet have more than violated the earth we live on and perhaps that is the reason why Mother Nature has manifested herself as the microbe Corona to make us realize our misdemeanors and blunders.
It is high time we learn this valuable lesson from the epic. So, I used the luxury of lockdown time to read my favorite epic once again in order to forage for more messages.