Lakshman & Rekha


I told my wife that I wanted to go out and do some hands-on research on Evil. She asked me why. I said I wanted to know if Evil can ever be subjective, or will it always have to be objective.

‘That’s pretty simple,’ she said. ‘When seventh-floor Lakshman has a thing going with fourth-floor Rekha, it’s subjective. But when you fool around with that chick, I promise you, it’ll always be bloody objective.’

Whoa. Was that an explanation or a warning? Naani bhi, elementary physics bhi yaad aagayi.

Objectivity is the trajectory that flying objects take from the kitchen to one’s head. The straighter the trajectory, the stronger her point of view.

With my primary research thwarted, I proceeded to do my secondary research from my house, not daring to venture out and risk bumping into fourth-floor Rekha.

Cinema came to my rescue. It is the best chronicle of modern history. Mark my words, one day all history classes will be held in cinema halls.

Think of World War I or II, and it is Hollywood images that spring to mind. They’ve even shown us III. Do text books do that?

If we feel even Hitler had likeable characteristics, it’s thanks to our man Charlie.

The image of Gandhi our kids carry is not Gandhi’s, but Ben Kingsley’s.

If we have come to believe that Jodha had blue eyes, young Akbar had 6-packs, old Akbar had the Kapoor-clan’s bulk and all kings walked like Shivaji Ganesan, then blame it on cinema.

My research on the Good-Evil standoff threw up a pattern that falls broadly into three eras.

The earliest was when the line between the Good and the Evil was bold, dark and distinct. The Evil chose to be Evil. They either died fighting or were suitably punished at the end. MGR-Nambiar and Manoj Kumar-Pran come to my mind.

Then came an era where the line got thinner. The Evil were no longer a different breed, born and brought up on the wrong side. They were the Good who had crossed over by accident, or compelled to by circumstances. At the end, they always repented, paid for their sins and sometimes crossed back vowing not to overstep that dreaded line again. I have Deewar, Zanjeer, Sholay and more to show.

The modern era saw that line become bolder, darker and more distinct than ever. Today’s good fellas are not mama’s milk-drinking boys who are content to live a life of limited values within the confines of a small territory earmarked for the Good. Their dil maange more.

Their thinking- Why erase that line when it can be conveniently moved by reason and logic?

And it didn’t matter how warped, skewed and convoluted those reasons and logic were.

Suddenly a whole lot of stuff that was Oh no became Umm…okay. Adorable crooks, lovable vamps and honourable terrorists entered our cinema and lives.

I sum up my research findings here with what I think is the overriding philosophy that runs this world today.

“Evil starts from wherever I stop.”

Here’s a case study to illustrate that. The line on necklines.

Pratibha Patil with her saree wrapped around, says forget necklines, even blouses shouldn’t be visible.

Parmeshwar Godrej agrees that blouses shouldn’t be visible. She says necklines should plunge so deep that there should hardly be any blouse left.

My mom’s, wife’s, aunts’, sisters’, nieces’ and yours are somewhere between the two, I presume.

All seem to say: “Mine is it! Nothing less, nothing more.”

Get the point? Wherever we stand is the LOC (Line Of Correctness). In everything, not just necklines.

So, the US thinks that Saddam crossed the line, but Mubarak hasn’t.

India thinks Bangladesh had to be liberated, but Kashmir shouldn’t be.

We think that our bribing a traffic cop to spare our licence is fine, but business houses bribing A.Raja for 2G licences is shameful.

Using our contacts to get our kid a college seat is resourcefulness, but when he loses it to a trustee’s kid, it becomes death of meritocracy.

Getting a team member shifted because he’s forever finding fault with us, is part of building a coherent team, but a minister transferring a similar IAS officer is witch-hunt.

The formula seems to be: If it can be justified, it isn’t evil.

Here are 4 verbatims to prove that.

‘The forest is sacred to me. It begins where my needs end.’  -Poacher

‘I’ve done my bit by paying for my son’s best education. I expect his fiancée’s dad to do his bit by helping the young couple set up their home. Is that unfair?’  -Dowry taker

‘You can’t show the other cheek to those who would slap that one too. An eye for an eye doesn’t make the entire world blind. Instead, it leaves just two people one-eyed and becomes the biggest deterrent for the rest of the world to pursue violence.’  –Revenge seeker

In the context of such people, think of our old friend Ravan. He no longer seems to be the world’s most evil man, does he? Today, he would perhaps be considered as the world’s biggest idiot.

Why else would he have thought of disguising himself and abducting Sita? What was the need to do that?

He was taller and better built than the Avatar-blue Ram.

In a world where size matters, surely numbers would matter too? He had ten compared to Ram’s one. I mean heads. And yet…

More than any of that, he was a scholar and a musician par excellence. I believe no one could play the Veena like he did.

Tell me, which woman in the world doesn’t like an intelligent, rich, handsome, artistic and talented romantic who’s willing to get killed for his ladylove?

Had there been a little sense in any of his heads, maybe the Ramayana would have been an emancipated woman’s joyful love story than an alpha male’s bloody war epic.

Maybe the history of India-Sri Lanka relationship would have been happier.

Maybe Muttiah Muralitharan would have played for India.

Shucks, the last one hurts more than anything else.

Some would say that seduction is as big an evil as abduction. Some would say no. All I’m saying is, look how easily the infamous line between the Good and the Evil- the Lakshman Rekha- can be moved around in our minds today.

Some would say that there might not be a consensus on the Evil, but the Good is always beyond any such debate, doubt or discussion. It’s always aboveboard.

Is that so? Is Good always absolute, pure and unconditional?

Let’s take Ram himself. He was undoubtedly the world’s greatest son, the greatest brother, the greatest warrior and the greatest King. But in his effort to win all those trophies, he ended up being a lousy husband and dad, didn’t he?

Promise me his fame, his place in history and his God-like status, and I promise you I’ll be all that and more. And to beat it, the greatest neighbour to fourth-floor Rekha, too.

My question is can someone be Good for no rewards, no gains? For no reason whatsoever?

Do you know of anyone like that?

I know of one. Only one. Not I for sure. Not you either. Her name is Shanta. And my next post is dedicated to her.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by shefali on February 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

    You’ve disappointed me, Ramesh…all this while i’ve been thinking that the goddess of good would be me…now, who the hell is that Shanta?! 😦


  2. Posted by kumar ganesan on February 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I would love your take on Is Freedom Good? Hope to see your point of view soon. And yes waiting for Shanta as much as I wait for Santa.


    • Looks like there’s no escape from briefs, for me! The best take on Freedom came from an Indian cabbie in New Jersey: “I’d be arrested if I stop the cab here and pee on the sides. And they say US is a free country! India is where the real freedom is, brother.” My take is: When we drive at 120 kmph at midnight with loud music, it’s Absolute Freedom. When kids do it, it’s Too Much Freedom. When drivers do it, it’s Misuse of Freedom. Point is, Freedom is good when it’s for us. But terrible, unless limited and restricted, for others. 🙂


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