Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Archers Thumb

Train travels during day are invariably a gross waste of time in the most unproductive way. So when I had to do one such travel the past Sunday, I could only curse my stars for inflicting on me the need and necessity to make that travel. I grabbed a book along, and it was, "The Best of Speaking Tree”, a compilation of essays by the Times of India. It came to me as a token gift for some subscriptions I made. Some of the essays were matter of fact and able to provoke thought.Certainly a lesser quality as held by many. After all many people hate (not dislike) inconvenient questions and any form of distant threat to the utopian cocoons they are living in.But being a non conformist in many ways, I loved the reading and also, reproduce below a few paragraphs from the book. If ire comes about as comments I welcome happily as I would, a comment of agreement.

We routinely hear of atrocities on Dalits, tribals and others in the marginalised sections of society. However, today they no longer suffer oppression passively, as in the past, when they meekly allowed the caste system to dominate India’s social life. One such person who acquiesced in the humiliation of the subaltern has become a permanent symbol of injustice:' Ekalavya'. The original hunter-gatherer of upper India. Hearing of Dhronacharya, the archery teacher of the Kauravas, Ekalavaya went to him, naively not taking into account the racial arrogance of the Aryans.

Dhrona refused to instruct Ekalavaya. Undaunted Ekalavaya makes a wood statuette of Dhrona and under the eye of the symbolic guru taught himself the skills of archery. Once on a hunting trip the Pandavas found that their dog’s mouth had been sealed by arrows, a feat impossible even for the gifted Arjuna.Searching for the wondrous archer the Pandavas came upon Ekalvaya.Vyasan says that because of his dark complexion and unkempt looks, the dog barked at him and so he shut its mouth with arrows. When asked who his guru was, Ekalavaya pointed to Dhronas statuette.

Peeved Arjuna went to Dhrona, complaining that none should be able to surpass him in archery. Dhrona in turn rushed off to the jungle to meet Ekalavaya, who fell at his feet in reverence. Dhrona asked for his guru- dahakshina, and demanded Ekalavaya’s thumb. By offering his thumb, Ekalavaya was marginalised forever.

During our younger days and in early schooling times this story was repeatedly told to each of us, as a symbol of idealism in  guru- shishya relationship.

With its customary impartiality, the Mahabarataha, on the other hand, tells it as a sordid story of one –upmamship (Arjuna), lack of moral scruples (Dhrona) and an excessive respect for systems and authority (Ekalavya).
This drama has been enacted in every society, whether with Native Indians of America, and Africans in the USA or the blacks in South Africa and Rhodesia, or in the caste system in India.

The moral of the story is simple:
“The privileged fear the possibility of an Ekalavaya arising among the exploited. And so the thumbs of innumerable Ekalavayas fall to the ground- must fall to the ground, cut off before they can guide another arrow unerringly to its mark”.
( quote by the author)


Balachandran V said...

The focus is on this-

"During our younger days and in early schooling times this story was repeatedly told to each of us, as a symbol of idealism in guru- shishya relationship", and not as a story of the despicable character of Drona and Arjuna.

In the ancient times, caste system/ distinction was generally based on livelihood practices or professions. Such segregation and exclusiveness ensured refinement and excellence in whatever trade each practiced and each had its place and valuable function in the society.

But now? Caste distinction is based only on the caste you are born into.

The story of Ekalavya is not the story of all modern Dalits. It is the story of the indigenous communities of forest dwellers. And when they rise against oppression, you call them Naxalites or Maoists.

There is a modern Tamil Dalit young woman, who is a well-known poet. As is the fashion among many modern Dalits, she goes around abusing Gandhiji. I am amused at the irony.

The issue is not caste or community. It is about the oppressor and the oppressed. The Have-s and Have-nots. It will continue until homo sapiens become extinct.

anilkurup said...

@ Bals
Precisely the point. The marginalised section!
Well the story in relation to Ekalavya is only a conjunction. But what happens to the less privileged .
But I was amazed by the author alluding and relating the fate that befell Ekalavya and the fate of the many in the heart lands of Indian Tribal areas.
The subject of oppression and discrimination can be a Dalit, a tribal or anybody with no trappings of power, money and caste.

As for the fascinating Lady poet who excels in abusing Gandhiji- well as its is said ," no good deed goes unpunished"

kaalpanique said...

Funny.. i was thinking about ekalavya the other day.. while i sat playing the guitar.. i so wish i had a tutor. instead i am resigned to use books for a guide... :)

anilkurup said...

A Kaalpanique,

Ha ha see guitar brings in identical thoughts in the Blogging community.

kavita said...

I never bought this 'Guru-Shishya' theory even as a school going kid .The marginalization was not limited to the less privileged only.Look at the way Karna was treated- just because he was born before marriage .

anilkurup said...

@ Kavita,
But Karnan was born outside wedlock and even his mother disowned him at birth.Effectively he was adopted by the Kaurav clan . So the question of his legitimacy was always hanging over him.

dr.antony said...

We have a more realistic kind of guru-shishya relationship these days.Instead of giving away the thumb,shishyas would just show the middle finger up!

anilkurup said...

@ dr antony,

You said it doc.
And if I were Ekalavaya I would have shown the middle finger to Dhrona.