Off late people seem to have discovered the character of Ravana. Movies, comics, stuff exploring the anti-hero, exploring the good things and rationale among the creation of the quintessential bad guy. It makes me look back at my first encounter with the idea.
No, it wasn't because of the TV series.
At the age of 8 or 10, I don't remember exactly when, Dad made me memorize verses from Ravana's Shiv Tandav stotra. I think he was bored, and this seemed like a good project. Something about memory, something about Sanskrit, heaven only knows why. What is strange is that he could've picked any other hymn, but he picked this one. Slowly but painstakingly, we decided to make through the fifteen odd verses. It wasn't an easy task, simply because it is easier to memorize things you actually understand. This was all rhythm, and tongue-twisting words. But memorize I did, and I still remember a few verses.
Often we would sit in the evening, learning a sentence or two, and then repeat it again first thing the next morning. Once while we were practicing it, a snake was spotted outside our house, and I remember wondering if there was power in the hymn.
But that wasn't the point. The point is, I remember asking him wasn't Ravana the "villain", a word I must have picked up from Hindi movies. I remember him explaining to me patiently that Ravana was in fact a great scholar, and the reason why he has turned out to be the bad guy in the books is because his actions were wrong and that it's equally important to recognize his virtues. [That idea was a stark contrast to what I was made to believe -- that life and people are pretty black and white. Good student = good person, et cetera.]
It's pretty unfortunate that often like my mother, I stereotype. (It's faster). But this lesson is something I remember and try to act upon - that as much as possible, one should try and keep perspective.
Thanks for that, Dad. Though you have no clue this blog exists, but it's easier said here than to you. And I know you would'nt be very proud of this soppy piece.