The Rape of Our Epics: Conclusion

Read the previous parts: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Here are my tweets that started it all:

1. Nilanjana Roy’s lesbian fantasies about Shurpanakha: …. Nothing new. She’s the latest fantasizing kid on the block.

2. A woman who lusts after another woman’s husband is the role model of several urban Indian women today. Latest exhibit: Nilanjana Roy.

3. I know for a fact that Nilanjana Roy is married. How’d SHE feel if a Shurpanakha type today wanted to sleep with Nilanjana’s husband?

4. BTW is Nilanjana Roy on Twitter?

I deleted all these tweets subsequently. Were these tweets rude and offensive? Most certainly they were. In about 13 years of blogging, I’ve consciously made it a point to not say a word justifying what I write here. People are free to read what I write here and come to their own conclusions about my writing and about me as a person. But I’m breaking this rule only in this instance.

I’ll say this a million times: It did not give me any happiness to put out those tweets. And given how I highly regard women, I felt sad that I had to resort to tweeting this kind of stuff about a woman. Yet I did it consciously.

A few tweets about Nilanjana Roy, and a lot of fury erupted on Twitter and here in my comments section, and this is the kind of outrage that occurs when insulting things are said about a person. Yet why shouldn’t we be outraged, why shouldn’t millions be outraged, when a woman writes a piece that’s based on factual errors, falsification, and selective reading about women that these selfsame millions regard as role models? What exactly gives Nilanjana Roy the right to insult the icons and role models of other people based on her worldview of how women should be? And why should she be upset when I did the same thing that she did by giving a misleading interpretation of those five women? If Nilanjana Roy for example, calls Surpanakha a wronged woman based on convenient and/or selective readings, I can in the same manner, characterize her piece as a lesbian fantasy. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for gander.

If Nilanjana Roy defends this by calling Surpanakha a fictional character, here’s what occurs: why trace the cause for the Delhi rape to a fictional woman? If Surpanakha was a fictional character, Nilanjana should’ve analyzed her using literary parameters. And if Nilanjana believes that Surpanakha was a real woman, then my case for characterizing her piece as a lesbian fantasy only becomes stronger—simply because she has relied on a falsified version of Surpanakha, the real woman, and I just showed Nilanjana the mirror. Sorry, Nilanjana Roy, you cannot have it both ways.

The other charge against me was that I “asked questions about [Nilanjana’s] marriage and [her] husband” and that I “haven’t had the courage to repeat these insults here, in this piece.” As for the courage bit, I’ve reproduced everything above, in this post. As for the marriage and husband bit, let me repeat my tweet here:

I know for a fact that Nilanjana Roy is married. How’d SHE feel if a Shurpanakha type today wanted to sleep with Nilanjana’s husband?

Given all the facts about Surpanakha’s story (in my previous post), I believe this is a fair question to ask Nilanjana and everybody who embarks on a quest to deliver “justice” to Surpanakha. Here’s my last word, the last word derived from the last sentence of her piece where she says:

if you hurt the wrong woman, prepare for war.

Incorrect Nilanjana, it’s not just the woman. In my world, it’s any woman. If you hurt—if any man or any woman hurts any man or woman unjustly, that wrong should be righted even if it means war. That includes anybody unjustly hurting even you, Nilanjana. Like I said earlier, I don’t need to be a feminist to say this. And honestly, when you claim that I have “extreme discomfort with any kind of feminist critique of the great epics,” I can only laugh. I do have extreme discomfort with a dishonest critique whether it is feminine or Leftist or Liberal or whatever other kind.

I honestly have no use for any isms that feed the ego. Be it individualism or the kind of feminism Nilanjana Roy espouses. The ego-feeding is one main reason such isms find immense appeal. And there’s no dearth of logical reasoning that can justify it. Yet, it is this that makes people blind to even the most obvious acts of injustice, which they try to defend using even falsification and bias as valid forms of defence. Of what use then is Nilanjana Roy’s feminism, in this case?

If I’m a feminist in Nilanjana’s mould, I lose sight of all the men who stood by and even lost their lives protecting the women who were wronged. I lose sight of the ultimate plight of all those men who hurt these women. I lose sight of the final fate of a Ravana who could’ve remained happy ruling over a vast and prosperous kingdom, enjoying the best in life. I lose sight of the fate of a Keechaka who was pounded to death. I lose sight of the bloody end of a Dusshyasana who had his intestines ripped out. I lose sight of the sorry plight of Duryodhana who lost everything he had and lay dying with his thighs broken. All these were men who were otherwise good to their subjects, who took wise decisions but whose only fault was to lust after a married woman. And it was other men who taught their own brethren this much-needed lesson. If Nilanjana wants to argue that it’s okay for happily married women to succumb to the lust of other men, I have nothing further to say.

Perhaps there’s yet another side to this. Of all the great epics of the world, only the Ramayana and the Mahabharata continue to influence and shape the lives, values, and beliefs of the Indian people. The two epics are perhaps the greatest forces that unite the Indian people culturally, spiritually, and socially. And this fact is unique only to India. There is almost no direct relation to the life and culture of the Greece and Italy of today to the epics produced by their respective countries. If we observe the so-called critiques of the Indian epics in the early days by the Left, the underlying strain was to deride and destroy their appeal because that was one of the significant ways in which they could realize their pet project of a Red World in India. I wouldn’t accuse Nilanjana Roy of this in the absence of enough evidence, but I’d certainly say that her piece assumes such agenda-based critiques to be valid and builds on them. In this respect, Nilanjana Roy’s piece is no different from Sanjay Srivastava’s ill-informed rant about Swami Vivekananda in the Hindu.

In the end, there’s a simpler explanation for rape: the sick minds of a few men. Sad that Nilanjana Roy had to embark on an 830-word expedition of epic falsification to seek and yet not find this commonsense answer.


124 comments for “The Rape of Our Epics: Conclusion

  1. nitha
    March 4, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    Aother anti-Hindutva Sheldon Pollock , a fraud.
    He is most dangerous for unity and integrity of India.
    He is proving “Sanskrit is dangerous”.
    Sheldon Pollock on Hindutva and the Life and Death of Sanskrit – Part 1
    Sheldon Pollock on Hindutva and the Life and Death of Sanskrit – Part 2

  2. Ram
    February 5, 2013 at 1:49 AM

    Hey i know you buddy!
    1. You don’t understand basic physics well, leave alone subtle ones closer to dharma.( you are a fool by indian standards)
    2. You have never felt the happiness, sweetness and courage induced by Raama nama. (you are a failure considering bhakthi)
    3. You have never felt the infinite energy and oneness induced by meditation. ( failure in raja yoga)
    4. You have never held your mind still enough to know the eternal nature of yourself. ( failure in njaana / real knowledge)
    5. All your actions are aimed at cheap publicity, to look “cool”, and to earn browny points. ( utter failure going by Karma)

    When you are in such a pathetic state, even the thought that you can put yourselves in the shoes of ocean minds like Valmiki and Dwaipayana Vyasa, is just another proof of how ignorant you are.

    I hope you will soon catch up by the grace of Raama and correct your own mistakes by working 10 times harder to establish Dharma that you are so adamant to break now.

  3. raj
    January 29, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    @SP. Thank you, but full credit goes to Sandeep, the rest of are just dusting up after he cleaned NR’s clock.

    @g. Yes, I see your point. Ultimately though, I think the lesson for all hindus/dharmics, is to do purva paksh. Rajiv Malhotra (see on youtube) has pointed out this failing of ours to not read up on the rest of the world (even Alberuni commented on this). Our wise men are indeed wise, but even the wisest men make it a point to understand others and their backgrounds too.

    In addition, we also have an inherent tendency to always be defensive–as though only hindus and their religion/culture must be on trial here. That was why, no matter how many times a prithviraj defeated a ghori or a krishna deva raya defeated the bahmanids–they never went on the true offensive (sure kdr conquered bijapur, but he gave it back–wtf?).Offense is the best defense–that’s why the chinese are always doing “self defense counter attacks”. If others insist on pointing fingers at us, we can easily point out their flaws–we need only read up.

    Finally, I think it’s important that we reemphasize our sanskrit classics and even make an effort to teach sanskrit. 1. it ensures even the aam admi can easily shutdown an NR or an amarshiam, and 2. allows us to take pride in our own native accomplishment (which is severely underrated). Particularly in the North, there’s this tendency to get all caught up in ganga-yamuna tehzeeb, etc. That’s all well and good. But I’m sorry, Ghalib doesn’t hold a candle to Kalidasa (like that idiot katju insists). It’s by perpetuating such ridiculous notions that we have barbarians like owaisi and qadri saying they gave us our culture (what cheek!). Even apabrahmsh accomplishment in Rajasthan and Avadh gets neglected, and pakistanis and their campfollowers say “everything came from mughals”, including apparenty, bengali sweets. Our youth either consciously or subconsciously imbibe this ridiculous message. They even have the nerve to say that indian classical music and dance was just vedic chants–completely ignorant of bharat muni’s natya shastra, and odissi, carnatic, bharatnatyam, etc. Anyhow, I hope in the next few years, we get a reemphasis on sanskrit high culture. Shlokas over shayaris any day. Would be nice if Sandeep, with his deep knowledge of sanskrit, could post original translations from C.R.Devadhar et al and provide commentary (I know he’s posted in the past on kalidasa). After all, even the German philosopher Goethe waxed eloquent over Abhijnanasakuntala:

    Nenn’ ich, Sakuntala, Dich, und so ist Alles gesagt.

    I name thee, O Sakuntala! and all at once is said.


    Anyhow, rant over.

  4. g
    January 28, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    @Raj: “Ultimately, it all boils down to this: Do you think it’s ok (let alone feminist) for a woman to attempt to kill and cannibalize another woman?”

    Perhaps the question here should be “whether it is OK for one person to rape another?”!! In the passage from the Ramayana depicting the encounter between Rama and Surpankha exchange the gender of the two and then see the result. It appears to be almost a parallel of the dialogues between Ravana and Sita where the former is trying to force her to submit to his lust. Sandeep would have been completely justified in tweeting that in promoting her anti-Hindu prejudices Nilanjana Roy has in fact ended up supporting rape and glorifying a rapist like Surpankha. This is the astonishing end-result of the mindless defacement of Indian culture and literature by these brainwashed white-on-the-inside, brown-on-the-outside coco-nuts.

  5. SP
    January 28, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    @ Raj. Thanks for exposing evil designs of NR. Well done, Sir.

  6. January 28, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    @SP, Thanks for your kind words.


  7. SP
    January 28, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    @ Vasu.
    Thank you. Simply brilliant. Enjoyed each sentence, each argument.

  8. January 27, 2013 at 9:31 AM


    Your long posts interest me for they show you are curious to learn, understand, debate and take home something positive out of anything. While it’s good to be open minded, it’s better to have grasp of the cultural philosophy of social change such post-modernist/extreme feminist arguments espouse. The problem with such articles is that they never are concrete. It’s verbal calisthenics! Word circus with shibboleths of modern discourse on culture and patriarchy.

    What does SS like to see at schools, colleges? What changes in syllabus? What should parents and communities do today? What films are good? What more rights should women be empowered with? What should we ban and what should we promote? Are you getting the idea?

    The language is not complex. It’s come out of the post-modernist mould which knows templates, stereotypes, patriarchy, cultural archetypes one carries etc. It’s passe. Gone with the wind!

    I wonder if modern people are born of society and raised by society instead to human parents, whenever I read such gibberish. Your sixth sense is serving you right. If there is nothing concrete of the impression it left in you, then there is nothing that is possible through such writing. Trust yourself and your comprehension. Ignore that which confuses more than clarifies.

    I think I said enough of this subject. Men and women are equal (employment opportunities, before law, as regards basic attitudes etc). That’s all. Men and women are also a bit different.

    Happy reading, however.


  9. raj
    January 27, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    “Amit, I’m sorry you don’t have very much to say though I’ll try and read the links you’ve put up.”

    @amarshiam, amit has actually given you a thorough explanation on why NR’s article was written in bad faith. However, just as you avoided responding to Sandeep’s counterpoints to NR, you avoided amit’s.

    You also hysterically displayed faux outrage over Sandeep’s use of “rape” in the title of this blog, but you chastise others who decry NR’s use of rape to discuss epic stories that have nothing to do with rape. Ah hypocrisy, hello again old friend.

    Ultimately, it all boils down to this: Do you think it’s ok (let alone feminist) for a woman to attempt to kill and cannibalize another woman?

    You may disagree with the punishment Ram and Lakshman gave Surpanakha, but remember, the punishment for attempted murder and cannibalism in many societies is death. Because Surpanakha was a woman, they spared her from that.

    In addition, you gave a long speech about sati (a voluntary practice by most women–yes there were some abuses by greedy relatives in later periods), also ignoring that there were men like King Aja (Dasaratha’s father) who loved their wives so much they actually wanted to ascend their spouses funeral pyre themselves–but were prevented from doing so because the heir apparent was still a child. Aja starved himself 8 years later to be reunited with his long since cremated queen.

    But tell me, have you or NR written articles condemning Christian witchburning, which continues to this day in the world, and its biblical connection? Have you analyzed the old testament wherein Yahweh asked Abraham to human sacrifice his son Isaac? Are you therefore in favor of human sacrifice and witchburning?

    The reality is, a number of people have responded to you in good faith (some very polite, some rude), to explain to you why people like NR are pseudo-secs. Not only do p-secs not apply the microscope to all religions equally–they are not qualified to interpret to begin with.

    Yes, by all means, let’s scrutinize ourselves, our religions, and our epics. Dharma is exceedingly nuanced–but first make an effort to learn and understand it. You yourself admitted you have no significant knowledge of the epics when you wrote this: “My only criticism (if you could call it that) of NR’s article (given my lack of a deep knowledge on the epics)” on January 25, 2013 at 8:56 PM…as Sandeep showed–neither does NR.

    That’s the point–first gain deep knowledge, then criticize. NR’s article makes a ridiculous attempt to connect niyoga (where a woman satyavati convinced two princesses to allow themselves to be impregnated) and surpanakha and draupadi to rape. She does this because whenever actually rape took place (i.e. Ravan raping Kubera’s wife), the perpetrator was punished severely–demonstrating the real epic view on rape (rape is crime that will be punished). Hence it’s obvious that her actual goal is to impugn our epics. That is why there is outrage.

    Besides, I thought India was a “composite culture”–so why did she not even-handedly scrutinize the epics of other religions even though many perpetrators of rape come from other faiths? Isn’t she tacitly conceding the historical and continuing hindu character of India?

    Finally, for all your cries against Niyoga, funny how you also did not decry Abraham’s sexual exploitation of his slave (sidenote for pseudos: unlike others, hindus did not practice chattel slavery) Hagar, when his lawful wife could not produce a male heir.

    So in sum, rather than apologizing to Amit for his comments, perhaps you should instead apologize to the readers and bloggers here for your selective reading and selective outrage.

    Again, just to repeat, by all means, India and hinduism should be critiqued. But just as respectable publications don’t hire illiterates to critique the classics or new books, so too should we find scrutinizers who actually understand our epics and religion. Neither you nor NR qualify.

    Understanding the epics is the first criterion, then only are subsequent (published) inquiries valid.

  10. AVS
    January 27, 2013 at 4:34 AM

    @amarshiam just like those unscrupulous criticisers don’t choose to stop malicing and refuse to understand facts, aggreived parties like sandeep continue to give it back In a language that they understand. Well u can argue and refuse to accept this approach bt don’t drag it too far. Just like u don’t agree to his route a lot of ppl don’t agree to ur route. Remember different approaches for freedom. Well urs cud be best approach bt thats not the point here. If u think sandeep did an offence so did that feminist, a bigger mistake. Infact she did a much bigger damage. Let there be scruitiny of both of them. Don’t be judgemental and drag it too far. After all the end goal is same if u see spirit of our souls. We never wanted to hurt any religious sentiments and give them due respect. Unless useless and ill-motivated attacks stop they continue to give scope for certain % of revolutionary reaction. Thank god that we ate talking of hindus so its just revolution India words. If it was dared comment on any other minority u wud have seen blood bath.

  11. amarshiam
    January 26, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    Thank you for another positive constructive response.
    I am also puzzled by the inclusion of the sentence. “Swami Vivekananda’s masculine photographic-pose was only one aspect of the cult of masculinity encouraged and tolerated by nationalism” sentence. Nor do I fully understand its meaning in the context of the earlier part of the paragraph.

    I suspect that most people who read this sentence will be offended by the use of “cult of masulinity”, cult as the prime evocative word, and take offence without truly understanding the meaning of the sentence, thinking that something offensive is being said about Swami Vivekananda when in actual fact it could just be with reference to the pose he is striking and may not be entirely negative. I believe “Cult of masculinity” just refers to a culture which encourages and supports stereotypes of masculinity. Such as the stereotyped male interests in football or weight lifting/going to the gym etc.

    Who knows why he struck that particular pose? Perhaps the photographer asked him to? Perhaps that was the norm? I have pictures of my great grand father standing the same way — it’s a classic pose. So SS’s inclusion of that statement doesn’t make sense to me – indeed it detracts from the subject matter as it causes an emotional reaction in his readers thereby shutting down any thought process that could be started by the other things he is saying. I wish writers would consider this more often. But of course the article as a whole is quite interesting (from my point of view) if one can keep a level head.

    The language is complex though and not easy for the lay person such as myself to understand. This is another thing that these thinkers need to be aware of.. given that they are touching on areas that we are all sensitive and emotionally connected to, perhaps constructing sentences which are not ambiguous in meaning would be helpful. And also perhaps being a little more sensitive to the readership and presenting ideas etc. in gentler ways rather than just saying things which may outright offend people and put them off.

  12. amarshiam
    January 26, 2013 at 10:47 PM

    @Chandra, nope sorry no connection or association with NR though I’ll take that as a compliment – hardly deserving of it though!

    @Amit, I’m sorry you don’t have very much to say though I’ll try and read the links you’ve put up. Thanks.

  13. Amit
    January 26, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    And for the likes of amarshiam who mindlessly keep on chanting ‘bhaj secularism, bhaj secularism’ without

    a. knowing an iota of history of secularism, and
    b. with zero understanding of the concept, and
    c. will never have the courage to apply secularism when it comes to the great Religion of Peace, and
    d. why it should be applied in India and what it entails, but
    e. don’t feel any reluctance in lecturing others about secularism and parading their ignorance, because
    f. it’s a “modern” concept that’s popular in the west among liberals

    here’s an old article by Arvind Lavakare on secularism which should take the air out of such windbags, that is, if they have some intellectual honesty in them:

    January 26, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    why do I get a feeling that @amarshiam is N.R in disguise…

  15. Amit
    January 26, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Elst’s latest article – maybe the likes of amarshiam can introspect a bit after reading it.

  16. AVS
    January 25, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    Guys, the beauty of human mind is it can work any way once u resolve. There are multiple useless points that are used to criticize this write up here. Who ever criticized this article on grounds of freedom of expression are missing the point tht sandeep also has the same right. Both of them have emotions linked bt one has logical answers frm epics while former is baseless logic of linking our problems to epics. I can only pity ur ignorance to know the spirit preached by epics and ignorance to see big picture, ignorance to see white paper and not just a perceived black dot on a full white paper. Ppl resorted to go any far to substantiate and back up their ego inspite of their logic answered by other users.

    @amarshiam u give me any topic, any religion, any family and any person in the universe, I can ask more intelligent questions and link it to some problem to look like an intelligent person. Its easy to see and criticize anything and everything. More easier with ignorance, half truths, assumptions and even a lot more easier with an agenda to look for a point to criticize. It is a misnomer tht any any relativity and comparison is logic. It is not. Pls refer to ur own and other rediculous topics to judge this. If u & that feminist can’t think and see 99.99% of positive and rich morality that are profounded by great epics but will leave no chance to remotely link epics to some malice. More over all such linking is based on ignorance of epics and their gist. Secondly why don’t u get the basic logic tht we r talking about laws of the land, laws of ppl and laws of the age. Who are u to question it. Can u question stringent laws of some bloody countries which let a pregnant die just bcoz abortion is not allowed in tht country? Isn’t tht accepted by millions staying there even today? If thts accepted now, why any differeny treatment to epic time. If u want to know laws of tht age, go and read “Dharma sastra” as applicable to that yuga. All ppl were following it then and why shud u have a problem with it. Dont do loose comments bt read and try to understand with positive mind set. If u feel so even then, its ur wish. No one forces u to feel tht it was justified then. But it is sure non-sense to say tht epics are reason for this mind set. Mind u the ppl who read it also read abt what is the result of I’ll trrating women which is 99% of the moral from the story. If u r looking at 0.001% and that too a misunderstood fact and try critizing, no one can help u ever find an answer. Because there is no question India first place. If ur intent is to really find answer then u will not assume, nor u will do fault finding. But u will be truth finding un which case u will get all ur answers and much much more. I did exactly same truth finding for many years and I found nothing other than great examples In epics. Not just that it has solutions and clues to every issue we have. Its just that we are stupid to give same faulty inputs and even more faulty management and leadership to society bt at the end expect very dramatic results and morals In society. Just pause and look at all inputs tht we give to society, nothing that promotes morality nor our controls, leadership etc are justified and moral. Isn’t tht supposed to generate low moral outputs. Sure it works this way at cismic level.garbage India garbage out. But inspite of this if u find morals its because of moral upbringing by parents, religion and our weak management of country.

    @all, u have 2 choices. 1 to keep criticizing for ASSUMED AND PERCEIVED indirect influence of epics – which I think is sure stupidity because of the above said reasons. I still can’t get it as to why one ignores context, laws of the time, agreed and accepted customs, punishments etc.

    2 nd option is to do a root cause analysis for the situation and rather blame in-action and irresponsibility of citizens like u and me to put this pressure on govt to improve our faulty governance. Ur intelligence and efforts shud be used to find faults in u, me and society’s approach and fix than to scan entire epics to bring a point to make it look like reason. Of course unless u r one of the thousands funded by international funds to do this cultural attack India a slow and study way to weaken this country’s biggest strength, its culture.

    But one thing is for sure, all such cultural attacks are started by some one but completely backed by ppl from same culture, religion and section who doesn’t know that what they are supporting is based on false facts with an agenda to destroy. They feel that they are intelligent and asking questions which no one did. I request them to set aside his ego and read any ONE OR TWO Books which try and address such questions. He will realize that more smarter questions are asked and answered. Alas, every one thinks they are the first one.

    Surprisingly, the strength of this religion to accept questions and answer them is very well used to malice it. If u don’t accept, try publishing something criticizing or linking to muslims and that news paper will be attacked like the movie that we discussed above. I never see any one questioning islam and get away because no muslim will spare this. No muslim ever condemned a terrorist mind set of owaisi for his shameless, inhuman and idiotic hate speech. Somebody very truly said that no pooja or temple or festival gathering ever used for violence but every single Friday police across nation takes precaution outside some mosques. There are numerous stone throwing and other violence that I have observed right after namaaz by the same group who prayed. Never u find any public address in a temple talking abt other religions. List goes on. Hence we never dare to question islam inspite of hate speach.

    But if u try hard and take help in ur own un-informed knowledge i m sure u will find something to criticize hindu epics and be rest assured that u will find some supporters without thinking on is it fair to criticize with no context linking present society. That’s the strength and weakness of the character profounded by these epics. I choose to see it as strength and i avoid using that as weakness. If u choose otherwise, its ur choice and it has its negetive impact much much more than the positive impact that u seem to believe ur question and view point had. God bless u all. SHUBHAM BHOOYAATH.

    Excuse typos. Sent frm very small keyboard.

  17. January 25, 2013 at 10:09 PM


    It is wrong to blame the victim. Who disagrees? All cultures have a history of blaming the victim. The answer probably lies in psychology. Family, Sigmund Freud said, is an extension of self. Let’s hypothesize that if one member of a family is grievously hurt/injured, all members of that family are equally hurt. It’s natural then to “defend” oneself (this also heals!) saying this wouldn’t have happened if…………
    I believe it’s natural. It shows how much one can influence society as a whole, especially so when losses are irreparable or cause stigma in a society one lives. The answer is to work toward removing them too. You rightly imply in your argument that responsible social/political leaders should consult some experts before issuing public statements on crimes against women. Nearly all of them are well-meaning, but a tad inconsistent with the spirit of the times. I don’t think it’s a major issue. A bit of extra-emotion in a reaction.

    I have to wait before i think i can genuinely address “masculinity” and “removing aggression”. The world over criminologists and related pros are analyzing these. I think it’s much more complex. I refuse to recognize that SS’s “passing shot” at Swami Vivekananda, however!


  18. amarshiam
    January 25, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    @Vasu, Thank you for your very constructive comments.

    “Some people in India wrongly interpret our epics. Their basic attitude to our epics is not that of an enlightened 21st century person who can “put himself/herself in the shoes of the writer in an existing socio-cultural context”. The signal that comes out of badly understood and interpreted epics is : “hey guys, here is a root for this evil!” That is what people like me don’t appreciate.”

    I agree and I certainly don’t appreciate it either. It would be again, a simplistic way of looking things. The flip side of the coin so to speak.

    It is way too simplistic to just blame everything on the epics. But that is not what I read from NR’s article. SS talks a fair bit about cultural practices and gender stereotypes. His article is titled “Taking the aggression out of masculinity” and seems to connect gender stereotyping, cultural tradition and social attitudes with violent crimes against women. So I didn’t read or receive that message from his article either.

    My thoughts are that the epics can be a source of great cultural wisdom. Just as we must not look at all things in blank and white so to with the epics. They were written down by human beings, as such they also retain human wisdom as well, which as we know is fallible.

    Given that this is the case with all things cultural/belief oriented. All sources should be treated as a mixed bag of things which make sense in the current context of the 21st century and things which no longer make sense. So to reject it all as being “the source of all evil” is and would be an incredibly bad choice and we would all lose so much. On the other hand, what is happening now is you have law makers, politicians, judges etc. quoting from and being influenced in their decisions by incorrect understandings as well.

    I cannot believe that anyone could blame a woman for rape for having gone out and not stayed at home. Yet that happens. It is an insult to women as well as men. It implies that all men are evil monsters who are barely in control of their sexual urges and will jump on any woman they come across.

    My only criticism (if you could call it that) of NR’s article (given my lack of a deep knowledge on the epics) is that I do not believe we are ready as a people (the vast majority of us at least) to discuss the epics yet. In all honesty we are too emotionally attached to them to be able to open our minds to any sort of discussion. Do I think it’s necessary, yes I do for all the reasons I have already provided. Do I think it’s benefited some people who are able to open their minds? Yes I do! But most people have missed the point of her article and are reacting emotionally.

    What we could really do with instead of a feminist critique on the epics or any sort of critique would be a piece on the relevance of all things related to Indian culture, beliefs, practices and traditions and whether that discussion is relevant to the ill-treatment of women and also whether we should be having that discussion at all. This I expect is already be happening.

    Sandeep with his vast knowledge would be well placed to contribute to this discussion but whether he is interested in looking inward and asking the hard questions and brave enough to face the kind of abuse NR and SS faced for daring to venture into that territory is another question.

    Because if he does ask these questions he will also face abuse from many of the same people. How ever perhaps he may be able to broach those subjects more ‘tactfully’ given his own emotional involvement?

    SS has touched on these areas of course but again it feels very close to home and people will find it hard to look at themselves. But what choice do we have if we are to make any sort of progress?

  19. January 25, 2013 at 7:33 PM


    I agree we should question, inspect, introspect and analyze every bit that goes into what we call culture, belief systems etc. Look into the mirror and do loud thinking. Al right. Some people in India wrongly interpret our epics. Their basic attitude to our epics is not that of an enlightened 21st century person who can “put himself/herself in the shoes of the writer in an existing socio-cultural context”. The signal that comes out of badly understood and interpreted epics is : “hey guys, here is a root for this evil!” That is what people like me don’t appreciate. Most people know their epics first by listening to them from elders, by watching street plays and later by reading books and – now thanks to internet – one can read original Sanskrit work itself, free!

    Change comes, but slowly in reality. We should start with children, schools, communities to teach people how to treat one another, how to study our past, understand present and build future. You don’t go far if you look back at our epics when a crime happens on the street. I read on a brave fighter’s blog that perpetrators of heinous crimes have their own stories! No, I am not sympathizing with criminals. I am only pointing out that we should ask right questions and see in the right direction when we want important answers. Let children start talking at schools, colleges and at homes!

    The two articles (NR’s and SS’s) don’t seem to have achieved anything positive in anyway, if you ask me. I know for a fact that most people with leftist leanings are too quick about jumping to conclusions about our epics. I don’t deny Marxism as an analytic tool still has some appeal, although not like until the Berlin Wall.

    On the day I have time to write on the Mahabharata, THE WORLD’S GREATEST EPIC – I will address more about such issues in my blog. I also thank Sandeep for permitting this discussion on his space.

    Good luck and happy reading!


  20. amarshiam
    January 25, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    @Vasu, With reference to your earlier comment:
    I have done my best to articulate why I think it is necessary for us to have the strength to look inward and examine our culture, beliefs, traditions and yes also our epics. As Sandeep quite rightly says “…continue to influence and shape the lives, values, and beliefs of the Indian people…” This does not mean that we will find any direct correlation to the ill-treatment of women. But how would we know if we do not have the strength to ask the question in the first place? How will we know if we trample all over anyone who does? How will we know if we simply assume a position on principle as Sandeep seems to be doing?

    @Sameer, I strongly agree with you. Films are an important source of influence. We only need to look at films in general and see how they objectify women – films from the West as well as our own. There is much more to this and but I am not qualified to write on it so can’t do that but we’re all qualified to ask the questions and I am glad you have and in turn made me think on it. It’s certainly something I had not taken into consideration in the current discussion.

    As far as Sandeeps “ill-informed rant about Swami Vivekananda in the Hindu”, comment, he does use the word “about”. But it’s not “about” Swami Vivekananda, that is only what Sandeep took personally and reacted to, hence the usage of the word “about”. Similarly if you look across this blog you’ll find other articles that betray the same propensity to be offended and rant on ignoring everything but zooming in on one little detail or another. Missing the bigger picture entirely.

    Yes I agree SS dances around the central issues, but that is all he can do. I do not believe there is a definite correlation between cultural practices and rape but there is clearly a correlation between cultural practices/beliefs and mindsets that lead to the ill-treatment of women. If asking the question of ourselves is too close to home then we only need to ask the question of other cultures and their practices and beliefs to be convinced that there is a connection there. (e.g. the old tradition of bonded feet in china? I can think of many more of our own as well as of others.)

    There are other questions we already know the answers to which further strengthen the legitimacy of this line of enquiry : Do cultural beliefs work to prevent women from reporting rape or ill-treatment? We all know the answer to that.

    Do cultural beliefs work to influence the courts and lawyers to think that perhaps it’s all the fault of the woman for going out in the first place? Of course they do. I wonder where they get that idea from or what words they use to justify that idea?

    With reference to someone’s comment… having a picture of him (along with the other picture you didn’t notice) doesn’t make the article “about” him, in the same way that a picture of an Iguana on the cover of national geographic doesn’t make it about Iguanas. One must read the article to understand what it’s about and it’s clearly not about Swami Vivekananda. Who knows what went through the mind of the editor when he made the choice to use the picture of the Man rather than the picture of a Tulasi say? I don’t even know why SS dropped that line into the article! I certainly don’t agree with it. It’s hardly relevant compare to the other much more relevant things he is saying. (Link to the article is as well as in Sandeeps post above.)

    As to whether there are inaccuracies or things interpreted incorrectly in NR’s article, I honestly do not have the knowledge to be certain either way. But that is not what this is about. It is about a principle. On principle Sandeep will abuse anyone who asks a question if the answer to the question may indicate anything in the slightest bit negative or taking us down a line of thinking that may result in us questioning anything remotely related to our culture and beliefs. As I said earlier, he sees in blank and white. Nothing else they will have said will be worthy of consideration after that. People like NR and SS should be celebrated for asking questions and thinking about these things in the first place rather than abused.

    @satierfnaxael. Thank you and Honk Honk :)

  21. vv
    January 25, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    Sandeep, you wuss, I just spent 30 mins reading from part 1 to part 5. You write well and presented your heritage even better.
    What made you back down in part 5 ? A kid gets raped, some idiot writes connecting it to Ramayana, you start the take down and back off in the final act (just like BJP).
    That woman who wrote crap out of her own ignorance is a current day shurpanaka. You started off as a Rama and turned chicken the last moment.
    She wants war? she’ll get to see it. What is the worst she could do to you? Complain to sonia aunty? get her jehadi buddies after you? Those jehadi buddies of hers were busy reading her version of Ramayana to learn new ‘techniques’ to try out in Delhi buses. They are too busy for you anyway.
    Damn it, if I had even a third of your talent to write, I’d make them howl.
    And it is not “any woman” for sure. When bad things happen to women in your family, be assured that this 2 bit shurpanaka will not be even writing about it in her business rag. In her worldview, you and your kind do not matter, so that morality you showing is adharmic and weakness.
    I’m so disappointed in you.

  22. SP
    January 25, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    @amarshiam ,
    Did not know simple truth that I, a begot, is product of Sanatana Dharma culture. Thanks for pointing out. I was always taught that we are complex web of past, present, inside, outside, local, regional and finally universal elements. Probably, we all are wrong. But it does not give NR to rape womenfolk of our epics.
    There are lot of bright and role models in India, at the moment. Mamta, Sonia, Mayawati, Amma and all of them will benefit lot if NR does a serious research, rather than spit venom, on these ladies. She can glorify them or put them in trash bin. Let her or anyone not do Hussain on womenfolk of our epics.

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