Tale untold – The other half of history

I recently happened to read some lines told by Mr. Joss Whedon, a famous screenwriter, comic book writer, composer and actor. He co-wrote ‘Toy Story’(1995), recently wrote and directed ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’. He said,

“Half of writing history is hiding the truth”.

After reading this line, I began to wonder if there was any truth in it. This statement seemed to contradict a hard-line philosophy that we have been fed all our lifetime. That “the righteous always win over the unrighteous”, like in the epics where Rama won over Ravana, Pandavas over the Kauravas. To quote a contemporary political example, the victory of Allied powers over the Axis powers and Hitler in the World-War-II.

As I had more pressing matters to attend at that moment when this thought occurred to me, I had to dump this contradiction without giving it a serious thought. But after a few days, I incidentally happened to come across another related saying, this time, an old African proverb, reportedly told by the famous Nigerian author and father figure Chinua Achebe.

“Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters”.

I now began to wonder, if all the epics or history we read today is a version of the victorious. Never in the course of history has there been a popular version of those who lost. Those who lost have been demonized by those who won.

The Ramayana: Two sides of a coin

Ramayana, written by Valmiki, literally meaning “Rama’s Journey” is all about Rama the victorious. Why Rama had to go to the forest to live in exile, how Ravana abducted his wife Sita and why Rama had to fight a righteous war and defeat Ravana. Had Rama failed to win the war, I felt that there wouldn’t have been a Ramayana, but a Ravanayana (though it sounds funny) :p

Different possibilities aside, Rama won. But none cared to hear the other version, the version of the defeated, the version of Ravana’s kin. I wondered if they had a different version, or altogether a different tale to tell. Incidentally again, I happened to stumble upon an internet link that portrays a different say, a version of the same tale told in Sri Lanka. It narrates a different story about why Ravana, though being a king, abducted Sita. Ravana’s sister Surpanakha was attracted to Lord Rama and expressed her love for him, but he rejected it. Lakshmana insulted her and in an act of arrogance, cut off her nose.  That version sympathetically asks the reader,

“Now would a king forgive someone who has cut his sister’s nose? No king or a human being would forgive another person who harasses his own sister. Who would tolerate such an act? No one would, because tolerating such a thing would be a crime by itself. So, Ravana abducted Sita to avenge his sister’s honour”. It is also said that Ravana kept Sita very respectfully. The version also states that Rama made a mistake by leaving his wife unattended in the forest during the exile.

Now which version do we deem to be correct? Rama’s tale has been carried forward from times unknown, while neglect and ignorance were the gifts for Ravana’s version. We shall never know which one is true, but the point to be noted is that, only one tale stands the test of time because there is support for it, while the other versions die. That tale is always the tale of the victorious.

My understanding of history is that it portrays those who won the fight to be right and the lost party to be wrong. History we read today would’ve been a lot different, if Hitler had won the 2nd world-war. Winston Churchill and Roosevelt would’ve been the villains of the tale while Hitler would’ve been the saviour of humanity. Winston Churchill knew this fact better. He once said, “History is written by the victors” and at a later time, said “History will be kind to me as I intend to write it”.

How relevant is this to me?

Whenever I was a part of any conflict, I had my own reasons to support that I’m right. Tried my best to win over my opponent using ‘my’ logic. But never did I try to put myself into my counterparts shoes to see if his argument is right too (from his perspective). Who knows..? The parameters of his argument might have been totally different from mine. As in vector calculus where characteristics of a vector differs with the plane of reference used, the other argument might be as true as my own, but from a different perspective. Just as a coin has two sides, every tale has two (or more) versions. As they say in The Art of Living, truth is contradictory. What one finds to be the true might be false to another and so there is no single truth.

So all I have to do to make a fair argument with anyone is to talk to the other person, listen to him, understand his say and then see if my opinion still outweighs his. If it does, I’ll fight for it and if it doesn’t, just shut up. 🙂

End of Story.

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4 thoughts on “Tale untold – The other half of history

  1. Actually you r right.. every story has two or more parts. I never thought like that. Thank u for such a nice blog 🙂

  2. Hey Sunny, I think our writing style is pretty similar.

    Great post. I completely agree with you on this. No very version makes it to the future generations, it is the story of the victorious that flows down to the later generations…

    But the truth is, we will never know what the truth was. For, the truth is buried in one’s conscience. I am sure Rama’s conscience knows the truth & Ravana’s conscience knows the truth. But not every soul is strong enough to listen to one’s conscience and obey the truth.

    But I am sure, what goes around comes around. You do bad, bad is what happens to you. Had Rama been right in fighting Ravana, he wouldve had a great life later on, but rama only suffered, he never had happiness, he dint have his family with him. May be he did the wrong thing by fighting Ravana. Who knows …

    The very occurrence of this thought says that you have a great sense of righteousness, which is rare these days.

    Great post. Keep writing..

    1. Hey Divya,

      That was a very nice analysis of the thought. I was under the impression that everyone believes their argument to be true and that is why they fight for it.

      “Not every soul is strong enough to listen to one’s conscience and obey the truth”.. This was a great addition.. Thank you..! 🙂

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