Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Blood on our pages.. let's keep it there

So I started writing this post like a year ago, around the I re-read Harry Potter Book seven, and its been on cold storage ever since. I got a few more lines in (words actually) when I watched The Hobbit earlier this year, but what really got me writing was the Mahabharata; both the serial running on TV and the illustrated storybooks I've been reading. Kay sambandha? (Whats the connection?) read on..

Spoiler alert! Details about characters of LOTR, HP and  the Mahabharata are revealed below!

I took a generic and macroscopic view of how these series of books annoint their heroes. King Aragorn from the Lord Of The Rings, for instance, is a direct descendant of Isildur, one of the famous Dunedain, the men of Numenor. Harry Potter, on the other hand, is considered by his enemies as half blood by virtue of his Muggle born mother. Both seem to be portraying contrasting ideas of who qualifies as hero material. The LOTR  series does seem to lean towards the school of thought that the ancestry or blood of a man greatly affects his destiny. It mentions that the lineage of men began to fall when the Numenorians began to intermingle with men of lesser blood. The HP series however, stresses strongly on the choice that every man has in the making of his life. "It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be", to quote Albus Dumbledore. Although it later emerges that Harry is descended from a very noble wizarding family, another of Rowling's lead characters, Hermione, is muggle born, without a hint of magical blood in her family tree, and showed that with sheer perseverance, and shrewd application, she could best most "pure blood" wizards.

Where does the Mahabharata come in? Most of you know that the Mahabharata is the culmination of an inheritance war between two families, the five Pandavas and the 100 Kauravas, who are first cousins. All kings who participated in this war were kings by descent, save one. Karna, the son of a charioter, and the king of Anga. He was annointed King courtesy his prowess with the bow, which matched even that of the Pandava prince Arjuna, the son of Indra, king of the Gods. It is one instance in the epic where a man of a lowly caste rises to be counted as a king based on his valour and skill, not his birth or blood.

But then much like Harry, Karna is also revealed to be the son of Surya, the Sun God, and older brother of the Pandavas. Is his prowess and skill too a product of his divine descent? 

Yet there is another hero in this tale who showed that even one without a noble birth can show glimpses of greatness. Eklavya, the son of a tribal leader, was turned away by Dronacharya, the arms instructor of the royal household, due to his low birth. Through an almost fanatical faith in Dronacharya, and despite his guru(teacher)'s absence, he became an archer par excellence,even better than Arjuna at that young age. Alas, he never got to his chance to shine. Had Dronacharya not sought his right thumb as Guru Dakshina (payment to ones teacher), he might have overshadowed even the sons of Indra and Surya.

One common ghost haunts  the paragraphs of most mythology and fantasy literature: Blood. And while it makes for fascinating reading, how much does blood count for today? (Not much, if the recent  general election in India is anything to go by.) "Blood always tells" is a phrase doled out easily enough while pointing out a flaw in a person, but not often remembered in times of his success. But should it be given so much due? 

Must we always blame Nature, or also count the role that Nurture plays in moulding a person, even our children and heroes. Accepting that Nurture plays a bigger role is often difficult, because it sets the blame (or the credit) of how the future turns out squarely in our own uncertain hands. The Nurture philosophy would suggest that free will is THE defining human quality. Free will, that lone true freedom that our Maker grants us. Free will is what separates us from animals, who act on instinct, that slave of blood. Free will is what makes us destiny's writers, not its children.

Perhaps it is best to leave this predilection and fascination with blood on the pages of our books. Perhaps the concept itself is age old, medieval, and should be consigned to the realms it adorns best: fantasy and mythology. Too many wars have been fought and too many lives maligned on the altar of blood.  

We live in a new day and age, where the strengths  of our arms craft our future, not the strength of our blood. To quote Albus Dumbledore again, "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."