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By Ameya Lonkar & Subrahmanian Namboodiri

Present day
I am sitting in my house alone, in front of the television channel surfing and I find nothing worth watching. I am sure everyone around here, there, everywhere knows what I am talking about. 

Boredom prevails and my mind begins to wander and travels to my childhood days.
The setting is a Sunday morning somewhere in the 90’s. The living room is overrun with people, people that are hastily removing their footwear at the door as they would at a shrine. They are all in a hurry, to get the best possible spot of course. After all it is important that they catch every bit of action that will unfold and hear every single word that is dropped. Everyone eagerly awaits the end of the commercial playing on screen. They are all waiting for the stentorian voice of Mahendra Kapoor to fill the room with the words - Mahabharat, Mahabharat.  And soon the sonorous voice fills the room and announces the beginning of the epic saga. Every soul in the room is listening with rapt attention. A feeling of bravado is gushing through everyone’s veins as Mahendra Kapoor’s voice booms throughout the air and I am no exception. It is due to this man’s thundering voice that the following verses from the sacred Gita are well known and so easily recognized.

 यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत, अभ्युथानम् अधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् |
परित्राणाय साधुनाम विनाशाय च: दुष्कृताम, धर्मं संस्थापनार्थाय सम्भावामी युगे युगे ||

And for the less acquainted, these words loosely translate as below:

Whenever there is decline of Dharma (righteousness), and rise of Adharma (unrighteousness);
To protect the virtuous, to destroy the wicked and to re-establish Dharma,
I manifest myself, through the ages.

  After the introductory track plays, the next is the eternal and unchanging “Samay”. Barely paying attention to the actual content that is being delivered, the delivery impresses me to such an extent. It is authoritative and deep, commanding the audience to obeisance.  Starting now, to the completion of the telecast forty minutes hence,  every chore in the household comes to a standstill as men and women alike sit in front of television set to witness one of the greatest events in history.

The ‘Mahabharat’ was, is and always will be a story of how good triumphs over evil, the fable depicting victory of light over darkness. It did not hold so much meaning for me back then, I was just happy to see the super powered arrows flying about. Shot with the intent to kill, they wreaked of vengeance. I don’t remember a lot more than the arrows, save for a few characters that were essential for the story. I clearly remember the crooked ‘Shakuni Mama’ and his various schemes to aid the ‘Kauravas’. I remember the serenity and calmness in Krishna’s voice as he guided ‘Arjun’ through the various battles fought on and off the war field. I am sure most of the nation’s Sunday mornings were spent watching this timeless classic. Apart from the actual lessons learnt, which weren’t a lot in my case, memory recalls the way this show brought together so many people. Right through generations, caste, creed, gender, it did not matter. The show spoke about qualities which are of utmost importance in one’s life; it taught us to live by our words, to respect our elders and teachers. The most important lesson was about faith. To have faith on our guide or as they called it our ‘Saarthi’. As we all sat, the important part was the bond forged across the generations. The elders got the opportunity to instruct without instructing, the lessons meant for a healthy life and we got an opportunity to bond with our parents, elders. Everyone watched, in unison, as our culture unfolded before our very eyes. Each new story taught a valuable lesson.

And today, in 2012, I wonder if there will be any other television show that could possibly create the same sort of atmosphere. Or for that matter, teach forgotten values or provide an exposure to Indian culture like this singular epic did. And I also don’t know if it was the show or the fact that we were simply more sociable back then. How many today, actually know who their neighbors are? Will we ever get together like we did in the days gone by?  I do not have answers to this, nor do I expect any from you. But time, for one, will certainly tell.

Woh samay hai, woh hi batayega


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