Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Red Book.

I wish I could tell you with a straight face that I learned the story of The Ramayana from my father and mother or by listening to kirtans or by watching Ramleela. It simply won't be the truth. And, although I haven't sworn with my right hand on the Bhagwatgeeta that whatever I write here will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I just cannot bring myself to lie to you so early in the game. So, I shall stick to the truth. In the bottom part of a book cabinet in my childhood home in Khetwadi, there was lurking a 12" by 7" hardbound red volume. It was waiting for me to discover it, I guess. In this priceless tome was the story of The Ramayana retold in a series of four colour pictures (one on every glossy page, back to back) drawn by someone who seemed to have learned the craft at the feet of Raja Rammohan Roy. The story started with King Dashratha's Putrakameshti Yagna (the fire sacrifice for progeny) and ended with Rama, Laxman and Sita's return from vanavasa (banishment to the forest). I read it so often and handled it so roughly that my red book got tattered in a few years. I cannot recall where it finally vanished. (Maybe, Mother Earth opened up and swallowed it like she did Sita.) I wish I had the sense to handle it with kid gloves. Had I done so, Aditi, Avantika, Armaan and Anika could have enjoyed it as much as I did. I shudder to see them reading the atrociously illustrated and slovenly written Amar Chitra Katha comic books and have a secret Fahrenheit 451 fantasy about the monstrosities.

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