Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Manthara" lives on

In the Indian mythology, the epic Ramayana had a character called Manthara. She was an old woman, hunched on a staff and somehow had access to the Royal queens in the palace. What she did in the palace, where she came from, is not mentioned.
On the day, when there was much rejoicing in the kingdom, and the king was planning to crown Ram the heir, Manthra triggered a chain of events that lasted beyond Ramayana.

All four queens were happy. Bharat's mother was no exception either. Ram was just like a son to her. Manthara, came and whispered to her, that Ram was like a son, while Bharat was the son. How could she be happy when her own son was being denied the kingdom? Should she not raise her voice, use her authority to seek the gift that was promised to her by the king? Should she not get the kingdom for Bharat, when all that was needed, was her asking for it?

The rest as they say, is history. Rather, mythology in this case. The queen asked, the king granted, Ram accepted, Bharat refused. However, Manthara became immortal. She was a nobody, a commoner, who's advice triggered a chain of events impacting so many lives, so many years and so many events...No one knows what happened to Manthara after that.

The reason I write about Manthara is because, however insignifant the person is, their words of advice could have momentous impact. Especially advice based on the premise of benefit to the listener. Manthara lives on till today, however old or fragile she may be - in us, around us. Waiting for the time to make the small point, that went unnoticed. Waiting to show why rejoicing for another's success is so strange, when that success could be our own, that joy could be doubled.

Have you met Manthara recently?

In the decision making for positions of importance in office, when someone mildly questions your acceptance of a prized position gone to a friend? After all, didn't you work harder, did his tasks too when he wasn't around? Don't you think the boss should know? And if you acted on Manthara's advice, you well know how your and your friend's life changed after that.

In the rebuke of your mother, who asks how you could be so sanguine that your mother-in-law would give the best saree to you, just because she said so? Was her own daughter less important than you?

With the best intentions in her mind, Mathara, is the voice of dissidence in concurrence. Her questions transform her from nothing to noteworthy. Her insignificant helplessness becomes a powerful tool to change relationships, trigger events, affect lives and several lifetimes.

Manthara will never die. We need to be careful when to listen and when to ignore her. Her appearance, her voice, her persistence can never be ignored. Manthara would always find the right moment to say what she will. Her character teaches us that in the quest for what we feel we deserve, we can lose all that we have earned. Be it a son's love for her mother (Bharat lost respect for her mom, the queen), be it a friend's unquestioning faith or a mother-in-law's affections. So, beware of Manthara!

Take care!