‘The monkeys who hid themselves in Ayodhya’

Ashok V. Desai in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Valmiki [Ramayan] makes clear is that Ram did not need to build the bridge. He could have evaporated the Ocean with a single arrow, and his army would have crossed over without any effort. Lakshman dissuaded him from the extreme step because it would have killed so many crocodiles, snakes, demons and fish.

“The bridge was more a humanitarian gesture than a technological necessity. Thus the bridge has nothing to do with Ram; it was quite incidental to the story.

“Ram would not have lost any sleep if the Ocean had swept away the bridge immediately after the monkeys crossed—and in fact, the Ocean has swept away most of it. At that time, only Ram and Lakshman could command the flying services of Hanuman and Angad. Today, anyone can fly to Ceylon—even Hindutwits.

“Why, then, are the Hindutwits so upset at excavation of some stretches of the bridge? Why do they call it Ram sethu at all?

“First, because none of these devotees of Ram has read the Ramayan; none of them has an inkling of what it is about. For them, Ram is just one of the billion gods—another lucky charm. They are devout, but not very learned. And they would find learning distinctly inconvenient in the present case.

“And second, because nothing is as good as a superstitious rumpus to bring together their fractious party. They cannot unite on a single thing to do in the interests of the country. When Manmohan Singh steals their foreign policy clothes, they let him do so with impunity; they disown the clothes. They did far more reforms than Manmohan Singh has. But they maintain a deathly silence about their achievements—almost as if they were ashamed.

“I do not know if they have any soul, but they have certainly lost their heads. In fact, they are performing so badly that I am no longer sure that they are not monkeys. I think they are the residents of Lanka who ran off when Ram took it, and came and hid themselves in Ayodhya.”

Read the full column: The bridge to Ceylon