Ram – the perfect man?

Mahabharata from a woman’s perspective…the conversation with S yesterday set me thinking. I am not familiar enough with the Mahabharata to comment, but the Ramayana? When I first read the Ramayana at the age of 8, I was quite impressed. A dutiful son, a benevolent king, a handsome prince. A perfect man. I was probably way too young to wonder what kind of a man he really was. But, even at that age, I found myself wondering why a prince should give up creature comfort and go to the forest just because his senile and invertebrate old father wanted him to. Obedience is not a virtue for me. It has never been. Discretion however, is a different matter altogether.

When I re-read the epic ten years later, I was less impressed. But unsullied as I was with feminist ideals and ideas of equality, I still did not question the logic behind the epic. But, at 27, it is a different question altogether. Ram, to me, is no longer the dutiful son. He just obeyed his father without bothering to question the logic behind the order. A lack of discretion on his part. How will a man, incapable of analyzing the whys and wherefores of a decision, prove himself capable of ruling a country?

Later in the epic, Ram chases a mirage, the deceptively beautiful deer. He comes back to find his wife missing. She is abducted. Like any other husband, he sets out to get her back. He hunts Ravan down, kills him and liberates his wife. But wait! Something is wrong. Hasn’t the woman spent a good 12 years (Edit: 12 months, not years…) away from him? How does he know she is still chaste and untouched? Sita, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion, mustn’t she? Ram makes her undergo a trial by fire. If she is consumed by the flames, she is impure. If she gets out unscathed, she is chaste and virginal. Like most Indian women, Sita does it. For her chauvinist of a husband! But, let me ask you something. Did Ram not spend 12 years away from his wife too? (Edit: Dad says it’s 12 months…) Does chastity and purity mean nothing for a man? Or is promiscuity and infidelity excused because Ram is a man. What is sauce for the goose is most definitely not sauce for the gander.

To add insult to the injury, Ram is portrayed as asking for a trial by fire for the people of his country. Just who are the people of the country to ask a queen to prove her chastity? A husband is supposed to protect and cherish. A king is supposed to listen, explain and convince. Ram fails as both. He brings Sita back to Ayodhya, after the trial by fire. Again, questions are raised about her chastity. Is she pure? Is she chaste? Untouched? By now, she is pregnant. Ram, being the perfect king, exiles his wife, pregnant with twins, to the forest. After all, what is more important for a king that the wish of his people? Here, Ram fails again. As a husband.

It really gets my goat when people call Ram the perfect man. He is an average man. An average Indian male, who neither respects nor particularly cares for the woman in his life. An average Indian male who has been pampered all his life by grandmothers, aunts, his mother, his wife and other assorted female relatives. An average Indian man who will never understand, or even try to understand what a woman goes through at the various stages of her life. To me, Ram is not perfect.

7 thoughts on “Ram – the perfect man?

  1. Praveen says:

    I have begun to adore Ravan, Duryodhan and Karna rather than these pretentious historical heros. Another man I started hating after reading Yuganta and The Palace of Illusions is Yudhistra.

    This might interest you

    Praveen, don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Ram. Or any other mythical hero. I just think that the negative characters are more human than the heroes.

  2. Alan Smithee says:

    “A husband is supposed to protect…”

    I do hope that you think before you write.

    Your criticism would have more value if you bothered to explain yourself better. And this is my blog. I can say whatever I want. You are free not to read. Nobody is forcing u to visit.

  3. Praveen says:

    Not at all!
    But I just don’t see any reason why they have to be workshipped! I have grown to realise that the characterstics of Duryodhan and Karna are far more impressive than that of Ram.

    Hmm…btw, I read that article by Kamal. In Tamil. It’s fantastic. Thanks! 🙂

  4. selvan says:

    These mythical characters perhaps indicate certain movements in the social order affecting the people.At times changes in value systems and social relationship between the classes and the sexes.AS Marx has put it the episode of a Greek god marrying his own mother perhaps without being aware of it is indicative of the subjucation of the female of the species by the male.Likewise the ramayana is a product of the times when the tribes were moving in search of newer places for empire building and norms were evolving defining terms of relationship between the sexes as well betwqeen the social classes.Killing Sampooka for daring to defy the social restrictions and recite the vedas or whatever was also considered a sacred duty of a king.
    Unfortunately even this kind of opinion will be considered blasphemy.So you can delete this thing in case you feel it is offensive or it may hurt the feelings of some people.Especially in the present atmosphere of distrust,jealousy and bigotry one has to be extremely careful about saying anything about historical/mythical episodes and heroes.The Greek mythologies speak about the the conquest of other people who are described as less than human.But Ulyssus was only a human being and the Greek gods were fighting for their proteges.The ancient Greeks weaved mythical tales about their Gods and heroes.Perhaps the ancient Indians were also on a similar course.

  5. Indian Homemaker says:

    This is such a brilliant post.

    A lack of discretion on his part. How will a man, incapable of analyzing the whys and wherefores of a decision, prove himself capable of ruling a country?
    I agree. Obedience is not a virtue for Kings, they do need to use their own discretion.

    as asking for a trial by fire for the people of his country.
    Agree again. Makes no sense. A leader should be able to talk to his people, guide them not be MISguided by them.

    A husband is supposed to protect and cherish. A king is supposed to listen, explain and convince. Ram fails as both.
    He wasn’t even a good son to his mother, who he left alone to obey his father.

    He is an average man. An average Indian male, who neither respects nor particularly cares for the woman in his life. An average Indian male who has been pampered all his life by grandmothers, aunts, his mother, his wife and other assorted female relatives.
    I agree.

    Thanks!!

  6. Rahul says:

    ahem, you do know that the trial by fire thingy is from the uttar kanda, which, according to historians was written by ekta kapoor in a past life ?

    I am not making this up, the actual ramayana ends with the victory in war. the other stories are additions from a more, let’s say, patriarchal age.

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