Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, July 04, 2010
It is heartbreaking to hear of young men and women killing themselves when their heart is broken, when they feel so hurt and humiliated that they cannot bear to go on living. The idea is to stop feeling, because the feeling is unbearable, lacerations of the soul that cannot be healed. One feels so alone that one does not see the point of going on living anymore. No friend, no family, no support system, no connection, no significance. A life so worthless, or frightening, that one does not want to experience it any more. Or perhaps an act of ultimate communication – so that one is finally heard, and the ones who are left behind are finally punished, made to suffer as they suffered.
I remembered the story of Tambaku, the daughter of a tribal chieftain who no man wanted to marry despite the bridal price her father was willing to pay. She was too ugly! So she killed herself and the gods decreed that she would be born as the tobacco plant that every man would crave to put in his mouth. Thus, they would always want her and she would eventually kill them.
I remembered the story of the Raat-ki-Raani tree that blooms only at night. She was in love with the sun-god, Surya. But he did not care for her. Heartbroken, she refused to see him. She opened up only at night, refusing to led her fragrance permeate the day.
And then I saw the Sun-flower, staring at the sun all day long. He does not care for her but she still stares at him, hoping, waiting, for that one day when he will stop to gaze at her.
I remember the little mermaid of fairy tales who wants to marry the prince of the shore. He yearns for a beloved but cannot find her. The little mermaid cannot leave the sea and run to his castle. All she can do is sing as passionately as fishes do, but for his human ears it will just be a hollow song of the wind and the sea.
The idea of a heartbreak inspires literature. Valmiki once saw a hunter shoot one of a pair of love-birds. The survivor bird wailed around its beloved, circled around it a thousand times, and finally dashed against the ground to kill itself. Valmiki who saw this cursed the heartless hunter and the curse took the form of a verse. Thus was born the first poetry. As Valmiki said, “From pain comes poetry.” And that is what inspired him to write the Ramayana – a love story between a princess who loved a prince who could not reciprocate with the same passion as he was bound by royal responsibilities and family duties, who rejected her because her reputation was stained by contact to another man, yet who refused to marry another woman, preferring the company of a cold gold statute created in her likeness.
A woman called Vedavati wanted to marry Ram but he refused as he was faithful to only one wife. The same Vedavati killed herself when Ravana tried to take her by force. Some say, she was reborn as Sita. Others say, it was her curse that led to the killing of Ravana and that like Radha who waits in Madhuvan for Krishna to return, she is still waiting on the hills of Jammu for Ram to come to her.