“That is the story I cannot tell you” was how I responded to my nieces and nephews who pulled on me to sit back down. I abruptly rose, leaving them hanging from a cliff to know what happened after the beautiful Sita had been kidnapped by the Demon.
“Please, uncle! Tell us the whole story of Ramayána, please!”
“Rámáyana,” I gently corrected the pronunciation. “It is very long. It is better you read it. I have already left out too much and too many details.”
I had taken a few moments of silence and a deep breath before I started animating what is called the greatest story ever told. It is certainly the greatest adventure ever told, and it is older than time itself. I had no problem to recount how the greatest and most handsome yogi who had ever lived acquired so much discipline that he gained the favor of the Gods, if only to succumb to his ego and turn to Darkness, using the powers granted to him to wreak havoc on Earth and almost destroy the Heavens. I had no problem to tell the story of how the most honest and noble man who had ever walked the Earth had come to this world to stop the Evil One and would become the king of kings. It is a joy to tell the tale of how that king’s impeccable alignment of thought, words and actions was so dedicated to the truth that he lost everything, including his beloved Sita, after having been banished to the jungle in exile — but that is as far into the story as I have ever been able to tell.
The problem starts theretofore: I have never been able to get past the point after Sita is tricked and then kidnapped, taken to the citadel on the almost unreachable island of Lanka by the shape-changing Ravana, King of Demons, who could have anything he wanted in this Universe except for the love of Sita. I have never been able to tell more than that part in the story, because what follows is – for me – the greatest love story ever told, so powerful that I simply well up into slurping tears of joy and can no longer speak.
It is not the love story between Sita and Ram. It is the love that is found when the Universe conspires to send us help exactly in the moment when we think that all is lost, when even our most cherished joy in the world has has been taken away, making life not worth living. It is the undying, unshakeable, unwavering love of the Universe that sticks to our side like an animal companion once its trust has been gained.
People might abandon you but an animal never will.
After what had already been a spellbinding adventure, the Rāmāyana takes a curious twist that has never ceased to enchant me when the desolate and distressed Ram encounters a surprising monkey of startling prowess, who takes Ram to meet the Bear and Monkey kings in the land of Kishkinda. There, deep in the wilderness, an animal army is assembled to build a bridge and cross the water to the demon island of Lanka to rescue Sita and restore righteousness to this world.
There is not one Hindu who does not know the great name of that curious monkey who leapt across the water on a reconnaissance mission to the island to find Sita. He could become so small he could sneak past demons into the citadel or so large that he almost single-handedly and mischievously thrashed Ravana and all of Lanka to deliver the omen of Ravana’s defeat: Ram was much more than just a man on Earth and he was coming — the amazing monkey would see to it, personally.
The world’s very first superhero was neither god nor man, which meant that Ravana was left powerless against the strength of monkey. I like to think that the great monkey-man-god would have relished the chance to destroy the Demons, but he restrained himself, knowing he had a greater mission to deliver his beloved friend to fight the battle. I remember that, always, whenever I get so angry I might use words in an attempt to destroy someone: I pause, because I might just be the vehicle by which the Universe will deliver the limit a villian had been seeking.
He was the hero who also leapt across to the other end of what had been the known world and – failing to encounter the magic herb on the sacred mountain of Himalaya – simply picked up the entire mountain to leap back to save Ram’s brother from death, because, as anyone who has ever had a friend already knows:
A true friend will move mountains for you.
For some inexplicable reason, I can barely pronounce His name without choking on tears, overwhelmed by the emotion of joy that is beyond my control. That is why I cannot tell this tale easily. And it might be for this reason that all the roads in life led me to His shrine, His birthplace, and then those roads wound me back there two more times on a kind of pilgrimage to His hilltop, where legend says He, the Son of the Wind, the Defender of Truth, was born.
Know that it was He who was there when even the Lord thought he had lost everything, when even God needed a hand. Know that nothing can stop Him. Nothing!
Know that His name is HANUMAN.
Om Tat Sat