Macho men and meek women – Review of ‘The Truth about Myths’
A first reading of this slim book made me mutter words that the writer himself had used at some place, ‘We’re actually a land of intellectual masturbators!’ But as I re-read the book, parts of it made me think. The writer is rather concise and direct as he pronounces that ‘over the next 10 years, all rulebooks will be burnt’ and that the present ‘value systems won’t survive for more than 2 decades’ because we shall soon be willing to hear and understand the existence of both the Ramayana and the Mahabharat in their real context. Amit Srivastava, the writer of ‘The Truth about Myths’ proclaims that we have been giving the ‘right answers to the wrong questions’ but this phase is now poised to fade away.
The book is a dialogue between two friends where one is intent upon disproving the concepts we have all been holding for ages and succinctly calls them myths. Let me quote the writer when he says that in the Mahabharat ‘the concept of the choice of partners and property being decided by women was not acceptable to them…’ and thus ‘Ramayana was written to overshadow Mahabharat’ – so the society then thought of creating ‘a new story where women were subservient to men’. He calls the Bhagwad Gita ‘a complicated misunderstood book… written to fool poor people’… and that we have been feeding ourselves on interpretations that are not just incorrect but are utterly out of context. He writes that ‘we buy what we are told to buy, not what we actually need. Brand is the new ‘need’. Brand is the mental shortcut. A shortcut that says ‘Don’t check for quality or quantity or price, just buy it.’
So what is the real story according to the writer?
He begins by calling the Mahabharat ‘a story of the war between Mutants and Clones and the survival of human species…’ and that ‘the real story was always about three things… the right way of lovemaking, genetic diversity, and women’s right to property.’
Let me mention here that the fun and the utterly imaginative part of this book is where Amit literally superimposes the characters of Mahabharat by fantastical characters that the present generation is aware of… and has no hesitation in calling Yudhisthir a mutant like Mr Spock from StarTrek, Bhim becomes The Thing from Fantastic Four, Arjun is no better than Bulls-Eye from Daredevil, and Nakul and Sahdev are obviously so like Dr X and also like Wolverine they ‘heal and can heal others instantly.’ The Kauravas, you must have concluded by now, are the clones because ‘if Dhritarashtra and Gandhari had 100 boys naturally, gandhari would have died by the 20th Kaurava!’ After this tsunami of unconventional thought process, the writer grandly announces that…
‘Due to Krishna’s brilliant strategy, the Mutants win and the Clones are killed. Krishna ensures that Ashwathama also kills all the children of Mutants. After the death of their kids, all women including Draupadi refuse to have any more children with the Mutants and the race of Mutants ends too. Thus, Krishna ensures the survival of human race without Mutants or Clones.’
Phew! This is just one of the fantastical theories that the writer bombards the reader with… in the first thirty odd pages of the book. Yes, the writer did manage to hold my attention but at the end of every chapter I was left with a feeling that I still had the choice to reject all the heady imaginative stuff that I had been reading and go back to believing what I have been conditioned to believe. Rather helpfully, the writer adds that ‘a myth due to repetition becomes a conscious memory of the society… and a myth’s subtle messages become the values of the society. That’s why myths endure. Others don’t.’ I murmur a hmmm… and a few more of these hmmms… and go on…
The book is really about the war between predictability and surprises… and being a person who wouldn’t want to be away from anything unconventional, I read on. According to the writer, the Mahabharat is indicative of women’s rights, sexual intercourse on women’s terms, and the superiority of genetic diversity that makes five Pandavas remain heavy on a hundred Kauravas. All this was fast leading to a matriarchal society that was probably making men nervous and left out. Thus Mahabharat is ‘a story about the right way to have sex, make long-term decisions for the community… and a female dominated society…’ This epic is all about ‘the concept of the choice of partners and property being decided by women…’
Towards the end, the discussion is more on re-interpreting Ramayana and the real reasons (according to the writer of this book) why the epic was written. The writer feels that this epic subliminally supports the view that ‘women are the source of all the troubles in the world’ and that even Tulsidas wrote:
Dhol, Gawar, Shudra, Pashu, Nari, Sakal Tadna key Adhikari
The translation that Amit offers is that ‘drums, an uneducated individual, a low caste person, animal, and women… all should be regularly beaten to keep them disciplined.’ Ramayana, believes Amit, was created as an anti-Mahabharat and the society leaders then decided that what they wanted was blind allegiance to parents, a subservient wife, rights to property and wealth, and monogamy… and this was done by making Ramayana popular. The book cites examples from whatever Hanuman, Sita, Ram, Laxman, Ravana and the other characters of this epic and interprets a lot of well-known snippets differently.
Yes, I believe that both Mahabharat and Ramayana are narratives that must have had some relevance of what the social matrix wanted at one point… and with the passage of time interpretations and re-interpretations have made us all what we are. But human characteristics are not a result of the interpretations of local epics and in our times we are exposed to all sorts of innovations and advancements that form and re-form (even reform) us into what we might eventually become. Even the writer believes that ‘our generation is the bridge between moralities of Ramayana and the realities of condoms and pills… and that this bridge is under stress and will break soon.’ The book ends with one of the protagonists asking; ‘You mean Krishna might become relevant again? Bhagwad Gita will be deciphered?’
I’m not sure if the way the two epics have been interpreted will have the power to over-shadow the way we have read and understood them so far… all I can say for now is that the book will create great stuff for stand-up comedians where no one from the saffron brigade is in the audience.
The blurb mentions that the book is ‘a concoction of reality, anthropology, technology, and myths. It’s a potion so potent that once tasted, the reader will never be the same again.’ Well, I wouldn’t refute that but just add that such concoctions do entertain the mind and sometimes help it to walk where no path exists.
Title: The Truth about Myths
Author: Amit Srivastava
Publisher: Saptarshi Prakashan
Price: Rs 199/- (in 2016)
Amazon: The Truth about Myths
08 April 2016