Saturday, October 10, 2009
In July I attended a Sanskrit Winter Refresher course in Canberra. During that week, in addition to classes we watched an animated film called Sita Sings the Blues made by Nina Paley. This film has Creative Commons, so if you can watch videos on your computer, you might want to look it up.
The photo has nothing to do with Sita, but it does hang in the Asian Studies Department at ANU. It's a Gujarati cow.
Sita was no slouch just a woman in the tumult of emotion
she tried to help her man get a life – get out and about,
she said, why not follow that deer, dear. She needed time alone.
But it’s always been hard for women to get some solitude
and Sita was no different. Soon the rival king was coming round
asking for samosas with pickles and chutney and before she knew it
he had her tucked up in his flying chariot and was heading south.
She went just to see a bit of the country from the air, but Ravanna
had other ideas: he tried to woo her. But that wasn’t why she came.
A mountain from a molehill: before she knew it the scouts
were arriving on her doorstep, begging her to go home. But why
couldn’t he come and ask her himself? If she wasn’t important
enough for a visit, why bother? And so she stayed on at the
mountain resort with its beach views, elephants, peacocks,
evening dancing, temples and good intelligent conversation.
Ravanna too, didn’t get it. What was it with these men? Can’t they
tell the difference between great conversation and no desire for sex
(in the case of Ravanna) or great love, lust and passion but no wish
to give up on intellectual pursuits for housework, sitting pretty
and emotional deserts (in the case of Rama). All she wanted
was a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. Was it really that hard?
And then came the war. It was unwarranted. Like Helen,
across the desert lands, there seemed no end to the bloodshed,
the fear, the escalating madness of war, hatred and destruction.
Once started, she was no longer relevant to the discussion. She
tried negotiating. Nothing happening. She tried the cold shoulder
only to inflame the passions of Ravanna. She retreated, kept
out of sight. One day a great conflagration arose and there was
a river of blood. The palace burnt to the ground and Ravanna
lost his head. There was Rama, standing before her, his eyes cold
his heart–she wondered where it had gone. But there was nothing
else for it, she had to go to the place she had once called home.
Nothing had changed, she was still irrelevant in Rama’s list of duties.
She sat alone like an exiled Penelope waiting for the man she thought
she knew to return. Before long she noticed the early signs, she knew
what was to come well before her belly swelled. This time he evicted
her, sent her into exile. She was not much more alone, and here she could
get her life back together and stop waiting for someone to notice her.
She started a school for the study of language, people came from the lands
all around. They told stories, recited day-long epic poems, played music,
danced and painted. Finally life was good. She became revered among
the people of the lands nearby for her intelligence, her wit, her sense
of justice and fun. They also thought her beautiful, but this was one among
many fine attributes. Sita stayed in her own country, her children
flourished knowing only a little of their mother’s trials and tribulations.
Of their father, they knew only that he had been most interested in his
reputation among men. They learned that there was little future
and, like so many throughout history, their father remained unknown.