Serving justiceOnce upon a time, there lived a family of four; a father and a mother and their two sons. They lived a happy life. But as they say, happiness is nothing but a prelude to troubles. Troubles soon came knocking on their doors. When the younger son was just seven years old, the mother passed away.
Once upon a time, there lived a family of four; a father and a mother and their two sons. They lived a happy life. But as they say, happiness is nothing but a prelude to troubles. Troubles soon came knocking on their doors. When the younger son was just seven years old, the mother passed away.
The father and Ram, the older son, worked hard and spent their days toiling the family’s fields. Laxman, the younger son, a child that he was, spent his days playing. After mother’s passing away, Laxman took it upon himself to support the family, and he got wiser by the day. The sons’ father was a simple-minded man who loved his children dearly. He didn’t have tall ambitions in life and was happy with whatever little he had. As wealth, all that he had was small land in the valley they lived in and a small plot of land in a nearby uncultivable hill.
What the two sons didn’t know then was that just a few years after their mother’s passing away, death would once again come calling. This time, it was their father. His death was sudden, so sudden that the father didn’t even have the time to write a will. Everybody in the village thought that it wouldn’t be a problem because the two brothers were very close, and that the two would sort things out among themselves.
In a few years time, both brothers had married and started their own family. Their little house became too small to accommodate two families. Ram urged Laxman to move to the family’s land in the nearby hill, since he was young and had the physical strength to sustain a life in the harsh uncultivable land. Laxman agreed and took his family of three to live in the harsh hill. He toiled the land day and night and turned the uncultivable land into a fertile one. He worked hard and the land yielded good crops. Seeing this, Ram got envious and demanded that Laxman give him half of the land’s annual yield citing different reasons. Laxman, being the good brother that he was, agreed to Ram’s demand, even though he knew that it was unfair.
In the next three years, Laxman’s family of three had become a family of five. He now had three children, and it started becoming very hard for him eke out a living by giving half of the land’s yield to his brother. He often went to bed on an empty stomach. But Ram lived a luxurious life, enjoying the wealth and prosperity made due to his dubious dealings.
It’s not that Laxman didn’t see his brother’s unjust act. Whenever he tried to voice his qualms to the villagers, nobody came forward to help. Ram had become a powerful member of the village and Laxman was just poor farmer, and nobody in the village wanted to side with a poor farmer. Laxman found his solace in the almighty, trusting justice will be served. He always consoled himself and his wife saying, “We leave as we come, empty handed. Sure Ram may be leading a comfortable life now, but he has to leave everything behind when death comes. He can’t take his wealth.” To which she would always retort with, “It’s not about what we take, but what we leave after we die.” He would always try to come up with a better comeback, but he knew he couldn’t, so he’d shout and storm off. He felt helpless.
One day, a continuous heavy downpour wreaked havoc in the valley where Ram lived. The downpour soon turned into a massive flood and it flooded the whole valley, and it swept away the whole village, killing everybody. Only Laxman’s family survived. The flood didn’t do much damage to his house in the hill. Laxman thought that the almighty had finally delivered justice.
This story used to be my favourite, and a story that my mother often told and retold. She would always end the story by telling me that one must be brave and humble in the face of injustice for justice always prevails. Throughout my teenage years I believed in her thinking, that truth always prevails. I also thought that the story of Laxman and Ram ended with Ram being swept away by flood and Laxman surviving it. But it was only a few years ago that I learned that the story didn’t end there. There was more to the story, more to the flood, and it goes like this.
Once the flood had swept away the valley, it continued its rage. The water level soared and started sweeping away the foothills of the hill where Laxman lived. Heavy downpour also brought with it landslides. Laxman prayed frequently to the almighty to rescue his family. They kept praying for some miracle. A few fishermen passed by and asked Laxman if he needed help. A boat came and asked Laxman to come onboard. Rescue officials from the government came to rescue the family. Laxman refused help from all of them. He told all of them that god would come and help him. With each passing day, the flood got worse. One day, it swept away the shelter where Laxman and his family were sleeping in, killing them all.
In the afterlife, Laxman found himself at the gates of hell and told the gatekeeper that there must be some mistake. He told the gatekeeper that he had never done anything wrong his whole life and had always prayed diligently to god. Laxman demanded an audience with god. Seeing his conviction and innocence, the gate keeper agreed and arranged a meeting.
The first thing Laxman asked god was, “Why didn’t you save us? We waited for you.” To which god replied, “Who do you think sent a boat, fishermen and rescue officials to you? It was me. How do you expect me to help you when you weren’t willing help yourself?”
A stunned Laxman then asked god why he wasn’t given an entry to heaven. “Why hell?” he bellowed. “I lived my whole life reading your scriptures, praying to you. Now you are shunning me away.” To which God replied, “Doing nothing wrong is not the only benchmark you need to pass. You did nothing when you were being mistreated. Doing nothing in the face of injustice is a sin; it’s the greatest sin.”
God then ordered the gateman to take Laxman to hell.
This part of the story left a deep impression on me. In the last few days, I have gone through a situation similar to Laxman, being bullied by someone more powerful than me. I have reminded myself of that story several times. We believe we will be left alone if we don’t voice our disagreement, but to our dismay, bullies seldom back away at the face of compliance; they come back with more bullying. We must understand the only way out of injustice is by demanding justice. We can wait for the society and the god to come to rescue, but just like in the story, we need to be willing to change the course and fight for our own justice.