It represents those moments in our lives when everything is so promising, so wonderful, we wish it would last forever. But before we know it, all havoc breaks loose, and we find ourselves in the midst of a major upheaval again.
Such was the crisis that befell Ayodhya. The most momentous day in the city’s history was about to dawn. The people’s prince, Rama, heir to Dasharatha, was to be crowned king. The future had never looked brighter. The citizens of Ayodhya were delirious with excitement. Then, in the space of one night, everything was turned upside down and the whole of Ayodhya was cast into uncertainty.
King Dasharatha, bound by a commitment to one of his queens, Kaikeyi, became utterly ineffectual. Rama had to go into exile for fourteen years, relinquishing the throne in favour of Kaikeyi’s son Bharat. While Rama’s wife Sita and his brother Lakshman took it upon themselves to go with him, the city’s people, aghast at their king’s indiscretion, became totally disillusioned. Dasharatha, the pride of the Solar dynasty, was defeated and distraught. Conflict abounded. Should the citizens maintain allegiance to King Dasharatha or rally around his son Rama? Should the younger prince Bharat be made sovereign? If Bharat ascends the throne without the people’s mandate, would he still be a legitimate ruler? Worse yet, might he become a tyrant?
Rama, Sita and Lakshman, who had always enjoyed the security and comforts of a privileged existence, now faced fourteen long years of exile and hermitic wandering in the forest.
Beset by such difficulties they upheld their core values and sworn duty. Not once did they falter in their commitment to do what was right. They continued to shine as portraits of human excellence despite their harsh conditions.
We cannot always control or predict how things unravel or grow in a given situation. Yet, one thing is for certain: we are made stronger, larger and tempered when adversity strikes – if we choose to become so. Had Rama and Sita remained in Ayodhya, we may never have seen the faithfulness, resilience and compassion that Sita demonstrated in the events following her abduction by the despotic king Ravana. We might also never have glimpsed the prowess and wisdom of Rama as he stood up to Ravana, the remarkable decency and brotherly devotion of Bharat, the all-round competencies of Hanuman and the unflinching dedication to duty of Lakshman. The potential for greatness which lay in all of these players may not have surfaced were it not for the stormy experiences they had to go through.
None of us are spared the storms of life. But if we choose, our storms can strengthen our character and bring out the greatness in us.