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Sunday, 19 April 2015

What type of brother do you want?

Last month, I received a forwarded message on WhatsApp that was disquieting. I’m sure that quite a few of you reading this post will recognize it. I’d like you to read it again before going further.
A pregnant mother asked her daughter, “What do you want – a brother or a sister?” Daughter said, “Brother.”   Mother, “Like whom?”     Daughter, “Like Ravan.”
Mother, “What the hell are you saying? Are you out of your mind?”
Daughter, “Why not Mom? He left all his royalship and kingdom, all because his sister was disrespected. Even after picking up his enemy’s wife, he didn’t ever touch her. Why wouldn’t I want to have a brother like him? What would I do with a brother like Ram who left his pregnant wife after listening to a Dhobi though his wife always stood by his side like a shadow? After giving “Agni Pareeksha” and suffering 14 years of exile. Mom, you being a wife and sister to someone, until when will you keep on asking for a Ram as your son?"

Mother was in tears…Now this is known as Rishta vahi…soch nayi… 

Moral: No one in the world is good or bad. It’s just everyone's interpretation about someone. Change your perception and you change your world.

I’d like to ask the daughter in this anecdote a few questions…and I request you to ponder over these questions, too.

1. Do you want a brother who supports you just because he cannot bear you being disrespected or insulted – even if you are clearly in the wrong? Because that’s what Shoorpanakha was – wrong in coveting a married man who refused to get involved.

2. Are you okay with your brother kidnapping the wife of another man as long as he does not touch her against her wishes?

3. Is it okay by you if your brother is willing to sacrifice his sons, brothers and people under his rule in a personal fight fueled by his lust?

4. When you grow older and have sons of your own, would you like to have a non-Rama like son? One who will NOT obey your wishes because it will cause him discomfort? One who will NOT want to be separated from his wife because she cannot bear discomfort?

5. Are you okay with supporting a Ravana-like son who fights for a Shoorpanakha-like sister who wants to fulfill her immoral desires?

6. Are you ready to accept a daughter in law who professes a brand of anti-Sita feminism? One who questions why she must stick to her husband and give up her personal comfort just because her husband has given a promise to his parents without even bothering to consult her in the matter?

7. Would you support a non-Sita like daughter in law if she wanted to separate from your son to find a more pliant husband?

I see this message as viewing the characters of the Ramayana from a narrow viewpoint, trying to insert a debate on feminism through the characters of Sita and Shoorpanakha. I am not an expert to be able to elaborate on these aspects. 

But I wish to draw your attention to my understanding of this message - that such type of distorted reasoning and propaganda disguised as “nayi soch” (new thought) are a malaise of modern-day India. An India that today stands sandwiched between traditionalists who advise restraint and an avant-garde brigade who shun it. And such
warped ideology where personal benefit is placed above the collective good is what is corroding the ethical fabric of this nation.

Through her scriptures and systems of philosophy, through her illustrious saints and their teachings, through her culture and traditional practices, India has always emphasized the greater good of society at large rather than a narrow individualistic perspective based on the emotion of personal insult.

Unfortunately, our society today is falling prey to this un-Indian concept of safeguarding one’s ego at all costs, without considering whether one is in the right or wrong, without a concept of whether one is treading the path of Dharma (righteousness) or adharma (unrighteous conduct). This indeed is one of the major factors that fuels conflicts at different levels – between spouses, between parents and children, between in-laws, between a boss and subordinates and then spreads to the next level as conflict between genders, communities, castes, races and religions.

What I’d like to tell the daughter in this anecdote is that individuals come as entire packages – you have to accept them with their good and bad sides. You cannot choose merely the protective aspect of Ravana towards his sister and ignore the other aspects. And similarly, you cannot dismiss the righteousness of Rama because of an incident, which, as scholars point out, has a deeper significance.

So I’m sorry, but this message is an example of Rishta vahi…..soch nayi…but soch is not sahi (correct).

And the moral? Good and bad are concepts that get conveyed through our actions; they are not just everyone’s interpretation about someone. Don’t believe me? Just ask Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan or Nirbhaya’s parents.


  1. Thought provoking write up, Anu...very few people view such messages in this way. Sukanya

    1. The intention was to provoke people to think, Sukanya :-)

  2. Reading this made me realize that I would like a son like Rama and daughter in law like Seeta but would not want my son to cause discomfort to her, either.

    1. Noble sentiment...and may I also suggest ..please read the link to the article explaining the Agni Pareeksha incident.

  3. Hmmm. interesting read... Mythology is a way of teaching the future generations the social order of good and evil... As in Bollywood , mythology is all about The End main sab achcha hota hai... What we read of the Ramayana is possibly an exaggerated version playing up on Rama's divinity and Ravana's villainy.. while the truth is most probably somewhere in the middle.. Life is all about those 50 shades of grey. The human mind takes great pleasure in pigeonholing and classifying people into boxes like Good, Bad, Evil etc. to make life easy for itself and the social order is a natural consequence thereof. Good is good because there is an opposite evil force that makes it seems so.. Likewise Rama appears divine because on the other end of the scale is this demon king who is made by Valmiki to represent pretty much the opposite of what Rama stands for... so that the layman is steered to follow the social order setup by a few power brokers.. Historically, that's how it has always been.. Then and now...Remember Ramayana was written in a time when women were held in high esteem (Remember Seeta's swayamwar - she could choose a husband on free will, a luxury many of us don't enjoy).. For that matter.. knowing fully well that one Mrs Urmila Lakshman was waiting back at Ayodhya, why did Rama send Shoorpanakha to Lakshmana... and just because he wasn't interested in a marriage proposal, why did Lakshmana decide to turn violent...Ditto the assassination of Vali by deceit- Questions like these will always nag the thinking mind . And as for your question regarding what we see our offspring to be - The answer is - free spirits... and not propagate, accept or ridicule a belief system because it gives a certain parent some sense of happiness... Keep these coming..

    1. Pertinent points you've raised, Raja. But when these questions nag the thinking mind, I believe the right approach is to use them as a gateway to embark on a rigorous study of several authentic sources to understand them...and this journey has to begin with an unprejudiced mind, without falling prey to the hermeneutics of suspicion...that is, approaching a field of study with a suspicious attitude.


      watch this... there are a lot of answers here

  4. very well interpretation maam. todays people are feeling proud in bashing their own culture. if anything comes from india it is superstition and nonsense and if same thing comes from west,it is science ...

    1. True, such blind actions cause a lot of damage.


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