Overnight we have moved from speed age to the age of inactivity. As responsible citizens, we stay home, 24×7. A small number work online while a large majority have no work to keep them engaged as they cannot go to place of work when corona is in the air.
When the freedom to be active and productive is taken away, it leads to stress and anxiety. Counselors and Gurus are busy telling us how to accept this enforced home stay. Prayers are offered to drive away the dreaded horde of corona so that we can step out of the Lakshmanrekha without fear.
Meanwhile, to sooth our nerves the Indian national television channel, Doordarshan, is bringing to us the old popular epic serials of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These stories remind us of occasions when princes – known for their strength and valour – came to terms with a long period of inactivity imposed on them.
The Pandava princes were ruling from Indraprastha. They were valiant, strong, intelligent and popular. They were doing fine until they lost their kingdom, in the game of dice, to their wily cousins, and they had to go on a 13-year exile. During this long period of inaction, Pandava princes had their moments of anger, frustration, self-pity and even depression.
During their stay in the forest, the Pandavas come across several sages. One such sage was Brihadaswa. In a moment of despair, Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas, asks the sage, whether he has ever heard of a king more ill-fated than him? Yudhisthira is certain none before him had gone through what he is going through.
The sage then narrates the story of Nala, the king of Nishada, and his beloved wife Damayanti. He tells them about their love, the change of fortune, which drives Nala and Damayanti to forest, their separation, the ordeal that follows and finally their reunion. Nala ultimately regains his power and glory.
Sage Brihadaswa urges Yudhisthira to draw inspiration from the life of King Nala and not to lose hope and self-belief in difficult times.
On another occasion, Yudhishthira asks Sage Markandeya whether there has ever been a woman whose devotion matched Draupadi’s. The sage recalls Savitri’s love for her husband Satyavan. Savitri marries Satyavan even after being told he would meet his end in a year. She ultimately saves him from Yama, the Lord of Death.
After the great war in which the Pandavas emerge victorious, Yudhisthira is over taken by profound grief at the loss of lives. Such is his grief, he wants to give up his throne and retire to forest. Bhishma, who is lying on the bed of arrows, teaches him Rajadharma to talk him out of depression and pay attention to his responsibilities.
This part of the Mahabharata called Shanti Parva is the longest parva of the epic in which innumerable stories are told.
I draw the attention of parents to these stories because, besides children, even they can benefit from reading these stories, in these difficult times. All these stories are retold in Kathakids.