As I entered the hall, ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ flowed into my ears. ‘Sanskar’ was telecasting the usual 6 PM prarthana… an animated visual depicting the greatness of ‘muscular Hanuman’… real good stuff… that too amidst a dozen TV channels that telecasts nothing except Ms.Sherawat, smooches & Mr.Hashmi.. (oops! Sorry for those synonymous repetitions.)
Those animations pulled me into a flashback......
‘Hanuman to the rescue (adapted from Kirttivasa Ramayana)’ was the title of that comic book. Publisher: Amar Chitra Katha. It was a gift from ‘Bala athai’ (athai - Aunt). I was in III – ‘C’ then. I utter a ‘Thanks’ to her for this book till date… my first handshake with Hindu mythology. I read (read studied) that book cover to cover almost everyday… so many times that each description, each dialogue, got imprinted in my mind. I would be fast asleep and appa would ask: “What does Hanuman say when he meets the physician Sushena?” And I would spring from my bed with the answer. This was one ploy he deployed to wake me up from my otherwise lazy slumber. I soon got into action with my favourite’s costume – a mace (a branch from the neighbour’s tree), a tail (‘sanal kayiru’ - a thread made out of coconut fibre) & a monkey's mouth (no costumes needed for this!!). The bed and almirah served as my Ram & Ravan. My dialogues were adapted from ‘Hanuman to the…’ initially. As time went by and I gained more experience, I started framing my own dialogues (and situations as well!!). I still remember that evening when I stood on that writing desk laid upside down and tried jumping (like how my idol does from hilltops :)), only to end up losing some haemoglobin.
My parents recognised my inclination towards mythology instantly. Volumes of Mahabharatha and Ramayana started flowing, from ‘Bhavani book centre’, West Mambalam. ‘A comic a week’ was the scheme. I don’t know how much Aruna my elder cousin struggled explaining each line for me from a Mahabharatha volume, answering each crappy question of mine, when I was vacationing at my aunt’s house in Thambiah Reddy Road, Mambalam. I thoroughly relished reading those, book after book, competing with Shyam & Vijay, my cousins as to who will finish reading first. ‘Bhima’ was my instant favourite. Soon I became well versed with every dynasty that had some remote connection with ‘Hastinapura’, so much that I became a ready reference for doubt-stricken Mamis. ‘How is Satyaki related to the Pandavas?’ Off runs my memory reel…. ‘Satyaki belonged to the Yadava dynasty and was devoted to Krishna. He trained under Dhrona and was a good friend of Arjuna.’ I would not stop with that. Extra information also I’d give… (freebies for the main product u can say) ‘He was one of the very few Maharathis left alive after the war.’ ‘Ambi kalakkarai po!’ – showers of praise. But there were more probing Mamas who will get into the technicalities. That drove me to learn more. ‘An ‘Akshouhini’ consists of over a lakh of infantry plus an additional one lakh elephants, horses and chariots combined.’ ‘The Pandava army comprised of 7 Akshouhinis as compared to 11 under Duryodhana..’, ‘Hanuman was the only monkey who can jump over hundred ‘Yojanas’ – a measure of distance.’ And thus grew my fascinations…
I was reading an article in ‘Young World’ some time back about how much reading as a habit has shot up among kids, thanks to the Blytons and Rowlings. Great to hear… Wait! If you try sampling a group of children, you’d find that this pie doesn’t have much space reserved for the likes of ‘Bhoorishrava’ or ‘Jarasandha’. Might be I’m wrong. Might be I’ve started thinking like an old man. But with whatever sample I have at hand, I’m right. Not many kids who are nuts about Harry Potter know about Hari Puttar. Today’s curriculum that aims at preparing kids for IIT-JEE from the I grade seldom covers moral sciences (of course barring few exceptions like Bhavan’s, Chinmaya etc.,). Inculcation of values through mythology is slowly getting phased out. There is not much emphasis on the core values of this great religion. With the last generation of knowledgeable paattis remaining and with working parents who care more about the client for whom they work for than their children, the situation sees no amelioration.
10 years down the lane… will my kids have any inclination to learn who this ascetic Veda Vyasa is or why the hell did he write such a voluminous book with an elephant's broken tusk? I am left with questions alone!
‘Rama lakhan seeta sahita...’ - as the animation piece closed with ‘Pavan putra’ tearing open His heart to reveal His Lord with Lakshmana and Sita and a pious looking Goswami Tulsidas prostrating before Him, I took a last sip of filter coffee placed on the ‘Teepoy’.