Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Modern Day Dasarathas

It was about 11.00pm in the night on a week day. I was in my room at home as usual hunched in front of my computer catching up with email and friends online. I heard a knock on my door. I was surprised 'cause my parents sleep by 10.15pm after their regular mega-serials. My sister goes to bed even earlier 'cause she leaves the house every morning at 6.45am.
I opened the door and found my mom excitedly staring up at me with a copy of the Ananda Vikatan (a local tamil magazine). I say staring "up" at me 'cause my mom is a good one foot shorter than me.. and it is literally looking "up" when we are in close quarters. "Ma! What are you doing up at this hour? Isn't it way past your bed time?". She said, "Oh! I couldn't sleep, so I was reading something! Stop treating me like a kid!". With a childish smile she continued.. "You have to listen to this.. Please, it will take only a couple of minutes. It is a very well written piece on the irony of today's situation". So, alright, I go sit with her to the living room, and we turn on the lights. She read out the piece to me and it went along the following lines (in Tamil ofcourse).

(In the article, there was a cartoon of an old man addressing some mythological figure with a copy of the Ramayana lying around in the background)

Oh foolish Dasaratha! You let go of your life in a moment of stupidity. You let go of your life because of "Putra sogam" (translation: sadness over the departure of your son). You let go of your life because your son left you to go live in the forest for 14 years.
Look at us Dasaratha. We are the modern Dasarathas. We have spent many decades toiling for our beloved kids.. incurring big fat loans.. and sending our sons to America.. And then we live longer away from him, than we have been with him.. bearing all nameless diseases.. Sometimes it turns out that this boy who drops in every two years in his shorts and American accent is someone we don't know any more. It has been twenty five years now, and will probably be another twenty years away from him. If only you had seen us, then maybe you would not have thrown your life away.

I was amused at my mother's reaction to this piece. She was amused/excited/affected by the parallel the author had been able to draw from mythology to what she sees around every day. Obviously (hopefully?), she does not feel that way 'cause I'm here.. But, I was a little concerned and I said "Ma! I'm here only.. so I hope you don't feel that way". She said "Nonsense.. it has nothing to do with me. It's what I see all around me!"

I was deeply moved somewhere down inside for some reason. I don't know how to write about the feelings that ran through my head at that point. Many people have asked me how I feel now in India.. now that I don't earn as much as I used to before. I have answered many times "It's really not that big a deal!". How come people talk about a decrease in salary like a big hit and not necessarily a decrease in family affection to the same effect? Maybe there is another answer I could give to the usual question. "I feel staying near my folks makes up for the dollar difference". But, would people truly be able to understand the value that it brings to me, on the same scale? I always wonder.

But, let me tell you one thing. That moment when I heard my mom say that it's not about her, but actually about what's happening all around her.. it was priceless. I don't know if any amount of salary hike can make me feel the way I felt at that instant.

Is this what we call a Mastercard moment? Hmm. Many times I have not felt good about myself. But that one instant.. truly priceless.



Blogger Vivek Manjeri said...

I know aht you mean buddy
Wow happy for u

7:55 PM  
Blogger vj said...

I know how it felt when your mom said that it is not about her...
But, it also hurts to see a lot of Modern Day "Dasarathas"...

10:46 AM  
Blogger Narayan said...

very interesting parallel. dont we know that all of us in chennai are here becos the same reason. and yes we can say three cheers to that.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous P.R.Ramachander said...

Dear Friends,

Modern Rama asks
Indra Sundar , Madras
(from October 2007 Mangayar malar)
Translation attempted by

You gave me those dreams,
Showed me the wall street,
And daily searched,
For dollar rates in the newspapers.

You gave me hot dogs to eat,
Lee Voys jeans to wear,
And converted my thoughts ,
Words and action in the US mode.

I studied computer lessons,
Saw Cartoon net work,
Drank Cola drinks,
And was made to like all that was foreign.

Around this time I got the chance,
For a life in America,
And this opened the magical world,
Of life of luxury ,fit even for the king.

Vehicles that go fast,
Machines that did all,
Lot of dollars as salary,
And life the way that I liked.

Cooking on week ends,
Washing as per my status,
Sleeping if and when I get time,
And mind which refused to jel.

Letters through e-mail,
Indian trips once a while,
Gifts through sea mail,
Thus went my life.

Your dreams were fulfilled,
You got income from variety of sources,
Then how come , your mind got bored,
After getting all these pleasures.

This is the forest life , that you gave me,
And Oh Dasaratha, how come
The foreign which was sweet once,
Burns your mind these days,
Is it the affection traveling in another direction?

Modern Dasaratha replies

Rama dear, thanks for ,
What you have penned.
Reservation in jobs,
Education in tatters,
Sinking standard of my life,
Might once have made me,
Look for America as an escape.

Never did I eat Pizza,
And never did I ask you to see cartoons,
Colas were far beyond my little income,
But I did eat less , walked to office,
Tied the belt tight to hide my hunger,
And made you, the apple of my eye,
Study in the best colleges in India,
Dreaming that you would have everything,
And would shower your cares on me and mine.

Today you are a stranger,
Willing to send some dollars,
For me if I ask you to,
But the spring of affection,
In the valley of your mind has dried,
And the best that I can dream,
If I am seriously sick,
Would be a few days visit from you,
With hurry in your words to go back,
To the place of your dreams.

If perchance , the lord my god,
Makes me bed ridden and sick,
It would be that old woman,
Who was guarding and managing,
My home and hearth, all these days
Who would be alone to give a helping hand,
For me to walk, talk and cry,
And book a place in the elder’s home.


10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just writing to thank you for this post. It was the deciding factor that swung my decision in favor of returning to India.

Very meaningful and well written.Thanks!

7:51 PM  
Blogger LifeIsAGame said...

well conveyed :)

4:05 PM  

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