Deserted streets; trains transferring migrant workers; poor and the needy being fed by strangers; the ‘party animals’ stuck in houses; and, an invisible virus. As much as one would have been happy seeing such scenarios only in motion pictures, they are a reality now. For the people of my generation, especially those early in their career, this is a major speed breaker! We never imagined such a thing could ever happen. But it did. Many have become unemployed. Many still are hanging by the cliff, to be pushed by the management any time.
But crisis is not a new thing in human life. One human’s opportunity is another’s crisis. Several thousand years ago, another man, or perhaps a superman, faced a series of crises in his life. For a prince, this was unlike anything ever seen. Especially, to make his newlywed wife share the crises, adds further agony to the prince. This superman was Lord Rama. His life is a study in resilience and courage. Perhaps, for an ordinary human, the sufferings faced by Rama, in the age that he was born, is unparalleled. That is the reason why we call him God or, the supreme human. Here, I try to put forth three episodes from Valmiki Ramayana, lessons which may be useful for us, as we deal with this Covid-19 crisis.
From coronation to expatriation. Even as Kausalya, Lakshman, Sita and almost all of the Ayodhya were preparing for the coronation, right on that day, Ram is asked to go on a fourteen-year exile in the forests of Dandakaranya. If there was another prince, surely, he would have killed his brother, imprisoned his father and declared himself the king. Not Rama. For him, there was another important thing to uphold-Dharma, loosely translated as righteousness.Rama knew that if he did such a rebellion, as Lakshman was instigating Rama to do, it will set a bad example to the people of Bharata and a bad name for the entire Ikshvaku dynasty. Rama was seeing super long-term repercussions of his acts and therefore stayed on the path of order and righteousness and therefore, accepted everything as they came. Here, Rama at least had a choice. But, we, today, sitting in this crisis do not much have a choice. Rama says to Lakshman-
[Righteousness is the best of all qualities in the world. Truth is established in righteousness.]
Therefore, all we can do is to follow our dharma. For youth, it means to put the infinite energy of their age in serving the country and the society. We have to serve the senior citizens; we have to hand-hold the children and if possible, teach them to make up for the lost classes; we have to support the poor people, wherever and whenever we can; we have to use our creativity to make new, useful inventions for the country. This way, we are one step ahead of the crisis and not the other way round.
Hanuman’s assurance to Sugreeva: Sugreeva is noticeably panicked on seeing Rama and Lakshman for the first time. He fears that they may be assassins sent by Bali (the enemy brother of Sugreeva) to kill him. Even though all the monkeys are on Mount Malaya, where Bali cannot enter, Sugreeva is viscerally afraid. Then, Hanuman instils confidence in Sugreeva’s attitude. He calls out all the facts and assures Sugreeva that he need not be afraid. And yet, Sugreeva doesn’t stop fearing. Then, Hanuman, arguably the bravest ever, warns Sugreeva that such fear and fickleness is uncalled for in a king as such an attitude is uninspiring to his followers and they may not undertake the king’s command, when needed.
The Sanskrit for the above warning given by Hanuman is as below-
Today, during these highly uncertain times, many of us are understandably afraid. However, such fear should not lead to fickleness of mind; Sugreeva assumed, out of fear, that Rama and Lakshman are assassins sent by Bali. Had there been no Hanuman, Sugreeva may have attacked Ram and Lakshman and Ramayana would have ended differently. All based on essentially a fake news of that era. Today such fear should not prompt us to spread fake news, which may harm many people and disturb the order in the society. We saw how doctors, other healthcare workers and police personnels were attacked based on fake news. This is especially uncalled for in public leaders for if they spread fake news and create chaos, it will lead to people losing trust in those leaders as Hanuman warns Sugreeva.
Ram Setu and the possibility of the impossible: Upon reaching the end of the Indian subcontinent, Rama, Lakshman, Hanuman, Sugreeva and his army were perplexed over how to cross the ocean and reach Lanka. Then, the ocean rises after Rama’s anger and informs him that Nala in the monkey army is as capable as Vishwakarma and hence can build a massive bridge across the ocean. Nala indeed accepts his own capability, which he seemed to have doubted at first. Similarly, we see Hanuman not knowing his ability to fly across the ocean to Lanka. He too had to be reminded by Jambavanta. This is the final lines from Jambanvanta after which Hanuman prepared himself to fly-
[Oh, Hanuma, all these monkeys are dispirited. Why this laziness of yours? You boldly triumph over the ocean as your speed is highest, supersonic, super-photic, super-cerebric is your speed. As with Vishnu who walked the troika of worlds in a moment, you too triumph over..." Thus, Jambavanta persuaded Hanuman to get ready for action.]
Today, there are many such Hanumans and Nalas in India, who need to be reminded about their hidden talents and abilities. Some very talented Indians are hiding in plain sight. We can see such Indians, who are highly creative, and yet somehow the country is not able to get their talents harnessed properly. They need to reminded that their ancestors were such great humans as Aryabhatta, Sushruta, Baudhayana among others. It is time, that such Indians are recognized and their talents put to national service. Many Indians abroad are also exceptionally talented and have international exposure. Such Indians also need to join the national efforts in rebuilding India. This Covid crisis has definitely challenged India and Indians. Many of us have lost loved ones, jobs, or normal life. But, this also an opportunity to collectively create a New India. This is the time to participate in rebuilding the Vikas Setu being set forth by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is time to make attempts to once again build a Ram Rajya in Bharat!