It’s 3 a.m. and your peaceful slumber is disrupted by a phone call. It’s your best friend seeking to be comforted by you during an anxiety attack that struck them at the dead of the night. The way they are freaking out concerns you, snapping you out of your dreamland; now your attention is solely focused on helping the poor lad. You try your best to calm them by being a good listener, saying something when words are necessary to weave the next thread of the conversation and staying put when they’re not because during the entirety of this conversation they’re safe as long as they’re talking to you, right? Congratulations! You are a good friend.
It’s 3 a.m. and your peaceful slumber is disrupted again. But this time, there’s no call, there’s nobody. It’s yourself that you have to face now. During tonight’s dead of the night the innermost demons that you shoved deep down inside a little corner of your subconscious and locked into a glass jar have, by fair means or foul, managed to knock the lid off and are wreaking havoc at the forefront of your consciousness. But you’re not as kind to yourself as you were to your friend, are you?
In a world where we are taught to be something, do something the moment we’re born, it becomes extremely hard to navigate through life while making sense of what’s being taught to us at the same time. And if you dare question those lessons instead of mindlessly following what’s being taught, then only the formidable god can be your saviour. It’s comically ironic that a society puts this much obstinate faith in an adult-sized imaginary “saviour” than they would ever think to put in their own selves, or their peers for that matter.
It’s as if this world was built on ironies. We were taught to seek out answers and learn from a young age, but if the questions were out of the syllabus, or in simpler terms, lay beyond the adults’ rigid belief system, then the liberty to find answers was taken away and deemed as being disrespectful. For a kid in their juvenility, it’s a lot to handle. Being a queer kid further forces you to hide your true self and give in to the mundane requirements of meeting the most basic needs and finding safety. It’s a trade-off we make at a tender age without learning the consequences of it, even as it chips away at our youth little by little, until everything crumbles down and you cannot hide your true self anymore. Until the lid finally comes off and those hidden demons are freed to topple over the menace that is your curated “self”.
During the formative years of our lives, folklore becomes an essential part of our routines. It serves to bridge the gap between the parent and the child, forming this intimate bond through sharing stories at the night time. Running around in those fancy clothes that were reserved to only see the light of the day during special occasions and festivals, always piqued my interest as to what makes the occasion so special for mom to air out the royal couture. This deep-seated correlation between the folklore and festivals made the intimate bond even more apprehensible. The diasporic nature of festivities spread through the month of October never fails to amaze the vitality of how the narrative can drastically change the whole story for centuries to come. It also depicts that the power a storyteller holds is irrevocably irreversible. And you guessed it right, we’re now going to talk about Ramayana.
The sheer essence of this folklore is that “good wins over evil”. But who gets to decide what is good and what is, in fact, evil? Ramayana is a story that was written approximately 7,000 years ago from a third person’s point of view. Ever since, it has been conceptualised and reiterated so many times that it might be hard to decipher which one is the closest version to Mr. Valmiki’s; notwithstanding the fact that it was already written from a third person’s perspective. So how do we segregate the good from the evil here? It’s important to look at the character descriptions and the way they acted. I mean, If Sri Rama were to be alive in this century, he would be cancelled. His wife, Sita left the comforts of the royal palace to live with him for 14 years in exile. She was abducted and kept away in Ravana’s palace where ironically she was safe and sound because the said bad guy here didn’t even touch her. Just to be clear, abduction is bad and should never be considered or forgiven by any means. However, many adaptations depict that Ravana abducted Sita for the sole purpose of being killed by the hands of Sri Rama and attaining moksha. Whereas, the good guy here refused to trust his own wife who practically sacrificed her life for him and forced her to go through fire to prove that her ‘purity’ was intact. This opinion of mine might be biased because my grandfather was the best actor to have ever played Ravana’s character. But is it biased enough?
Moral of the story: The storyteller gets to decide who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.
This absurd bias might seem familiar to queer folks because queer folks have consistently been depicted as either a character that serves as comic relief or is the bad guy (depending on the severity of the alphabet one belongs to), if at all. For centuries, queer characters have been delineated by cis heterosexual people and we all know how that goes. Slowly yet surely, this depiction renders a solid image of the aforementioned bias in the society’s collective consciousness, thereby becoming irrevocably irreversible (at least for a significant amount of time). If you can take away anything from this piece, I hope you consider this: Never fear your curiosity. Keep questioning so that you can become the storyteller of your own life. Because if you don’t, somebody else will and they always might not be as kind as you are.