Where were we…
We left our story as Ram & Sita return victorious to Ayodhya, what my family would call “All shiny shiny”. A beautiful story of fortitude and strength, of overcoming external challenges while engaging the assistance of all those around you. As an adult, you sense there are parts missing. What happened to Sita in the 10 months she was held captive by Ravana?
The renditions I have read/heard re-told are very limited and includes an illustrated version of the Ramayana for children. I am not claiming to be an authority on anything. I grew up with the image of Ravana as a demon with many heads. Ugly, lascivious, cunning, mean, wealthy beyond measure. He had all the makings of a good villain. But what if he was also kind, endearing and thoughtful? He was well versed in the Vedic texts and arts, including the Karma -Sutra. For ten months he housed Sita in a beautiful garden home and wooed her. He gave her a year to come to him freely after which time he swore to kill her if she refused him. She had no way of knowing if she would ever be found. She had no way or possibility of escaping as the sea separated her from India. Sita stood alone.
Her commitment to herself was greater than any external entity. That to me is what makes her extraordinary.
Diwali’s relevance today
I grew up with a limited understanding of the Ramayana, especially the end. Diwali was the focal point. I think it left me with a craving for this perfect marriage, a perfect hero who would rescue me from all the World’s demons. I subconsciously sort this Ram of the epic in all the men I know, my Dad, brother, friends, husband, father-in-law, brothers-in-law.
Stories & their influence
But how different my expectation of them would have been if I also knew the end of the Ramayana? How different my expectations of myself if I knew Sita as a heroine, resigned to her fate, rather than a victim hoping to be rescued by another. What if the end was given as much importance as Diwali rather than robbing Valmiki’s ancient poem of its strength. Have we fed ourselves on too much sweetness?
Sweet Forbidden Rice Recipe
My mum made sweet rice and sour rice on Diwali morning. Perhaps she intuitively knew there needed to be a balance. I share my recipe here. It’s a re-take of the traditional recipe reduced to 3 ingredients, for those of us who have been fed on a diet of too much sweet.
1 cup of black rice, rinsed 3 times
2 cups of milk
Sugar to taste
Method: Soak the rice in milk for 2 hours, then boil on a low heat for an hour, topping up so as not to cook dry. Add 3 tablespoons of a sugar or a sweetener of your choice. Remove from heat and leave to continue cooking in its own heat. You could use a Wonderbag or wrap the pot in a kitchen towel and place in a larger pot. Leave for a few hours until milk is mostly absorbed.
Tips: Resist the urge to enhance the flavour with anything and you will be rewarded with the fragrant taste and flavour of black rice. It needs nothing more.