11.8.11

in memoriam

My mother once told me an old story about Ravana's ghost.

There is hardly anyone in all of mythology who inspires as much terror and awe as does he. Ravana of the ten heads, lord of Lanka - isn't it strange that a man, nay Rakshasa, who spent a thousand years in penance should fall for a woman so fiercely and uncontrollably, that he would deploy his most mighty army and employ the most bright minds to find her and take her? While Rama killed his person, vanquishing all the evil he stood for and putting a less threatening Rakshasa on the throne, Ravana's ghost stayed.

It wandered the earth for centuries, doing what all ghosts do - remembering. It saw people, rich and poor, happy and sad, lonely and loved, gathering all of what one gains with death and loses with life. In its own memories that spanned hundreds of years, the ghost of Ravana searched for what it needed. Through the prosperity of Lanka, the love of Mandodhari, the sex of his concubines, the loyalty of his brothers, the revelry of the night and the peace of the mind, he recalled what it meant to be himself. The rush of the war, the edge in strategy, the thrill of victory, in these he wallowed, guilty for having lost.

In all of its travails, one day it came upon a little girl and her doll. This girl, it seemed, could not only see it, but was willing to talk to it, and treated it like a playmate. Abashed and amused, the ghost of Ravana the terrible, the destroyer of worlds, the abductor of Sita agreed to sit down for tea with a child and her doll. In the cup the child offered was an aroma of jasmine, in the air was the smell of eucalyptus and that was when it came rushing back to him. During this time, for as long as it took to finish a cup of tea, the ghost of Ravana did what all mortals do. It remembered what it meant to be alive. And in that moment, with but a memory of a smell, Ravana died, leaving no ghost behind.

That is the story of Ravana's ghost, and that is the story of death.

**

in a book i'm reading is this: 'for s, on the eve of seeing raavana's ghost. love m.' i don't know how you meant it, but this is how i saw it. :)

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