The Epics

"To be Indian, or to simply live in India at any period in her recorded history, is to open oneself to the benign moral influence of two epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Caste, creed, colour do not matter here; what matters is the degree, range and subtlety of exposure, which in turn determines the quality of the affected person's 'Indianness', whatever that very large word means" - Professor Purushottam Lal

Oct 26, 2012

Timely reminder

I am Time

With each rotation of my wheel, I see the world evolve. I see thoughts transform into life and life recede into imagination – each a caricature of itself.

I remember, I recollect, I reflect.

When I view the past, I see it reflected in the consciousness of human knowledge as a patchwork of truth, conjectures and fables. And when I see the future grind its way to reach the present, it is but a feeble mimicry of what was envisaged – to be documented yet again in memory of man, retold as another quaint imperfect patchwork.

Yet, these patchworks create the canopy that shelters the human soul from an eternity of nothingness. Each retelling has its merits, its positives and negatives.

That is why stories are to be formed – and storytellers not to be reformed.

The epics happened before my eyes, but not everything that is in the epics happened and not everything that happened is in the epics. A lot is said through metaphors, allegories, magical tales.

Gaps remain to be filled and layers persist that need to be peeled off.

The only way that can be done is through retelling , rethinking.

Let us absorb the wisdom of telling a tale.

Almost all about Beards

From ancient times, in epics and life, wisdom is metaphorically represented in human form through beards. The term greybeard is synonymous with all that is wise and experienced. Even Roget will agree.

There is reason enough. Enlightenment is acquired through telling and retelling and suppression cannot stop its course in history. Just like a beard can be shaved and re-shaved, but cannot be stopped from sprouting.

In the first page of Mahabharata, the sage with the longest beard coaxes Sauti to tell the tale in detail. That is the metaphorical way of the great epic to tell the world how wisdom, and by induction greybeards, should encourage retelling the whole story.

Vyasa’s matted red beard itself has such an important role to play in the evolution and propagation of the story.

It is not limited to the Mahabharata. The world has seen plenty of such symbolism take place over the years.

The word of God compiled into the Old Testament, the most retold stories across three faiths, often shows the Almighty in flowing white beard. In fact, when he was depicted on screen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it was an animated version of the famous bearded face of WG Grace.

WG Grace was nature’s way of showing how the English depiction of eternity, cricket, was nurtured by the gravest wisdom.

Down the years we have had excellent men who told us tales that have become part of the human consciousness, and in most cases, the stories have emerged from the recesses of serious facial vegetation.

Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and the other Russians, the greatest teller of stories, had beards which underlined their wisdom as much as their bulging foreheads. Their English counterparts – Shakespeare and Dickens – had smarter trimmed versions, but the personality was there for everyone to see. And even in the land where the Mahabharata was spoken, written and continues to evolve, the Nobel Prize was obtained for Literature by a man whose beard was long enough to cover several parts of his complete works.

Why this obsession with beards? As Time, I know from immemorial recesses of my own being, wisdom has been depicted by the allegory of life with bushy beards and they in turn promote the telling and retelling of tales.

So, why is that today I see beards, grey and not overly grey, of several shapes and sizes, often speaking against the retelling of the epics in ways that they do not approve?

Has nature evolved to that extent that retelling is no longer required and knowledge is a finished product, finite enough for hairline absorption?

Or have human beards lost their symbolic virtue and have little to do with the nurture of thought? Does it lengthen using the principles of bristle growth that makes the hair continue to increase even after death?

However, I am Time, and have witnessed my wheel rotate again and again and again till the past, present and future merge together in a – dare I say story – of human thought.

And I can assure that telling and retelling of the fascinating epic called Mahabharata will go on and on ... as long as, to quote a wise greybeard, the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.

The Mahabharata has infinite facets which can be perhaps glimpsed by interpretations from the most lofty to the most profane.

This will continue.

Just like the beard – shave it as much as you want, it will grow back.

So no matter what metaphorical and physical greybeards say about irreverence, the answer is an idiomatic expression – about hair and tearing of the same, in vernacular if required.

The show will go on – because my wheel cannot stop.

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