Thursday, January 18, 2018

Reunion again

In late December last year, I attended the 25th year reunion of my IIMA batch at Ahmedabad. Jimmy Connors once said, 'The trouble with experience is that by the time you have it you are too old to take advantage of it.' This is not always true. Since I had been to Ahmedabad 4 years earlier, we were familiar with what the journey entailed so the soul-searching, preparations and tensions of last time were not present this time. (I remember another quote about the lateness of learning from experience - 'By the time you realize that your father was right, you will have a son who thinks that you are wrong.'.)

All the batch mates from my dorm (D2) attended the reunion. During our campus days, we had styled ourselves 'Enlightened Rogues'. This was a term that I had completely forgotten till I read it  in a Whatsapp message. This was the first time since our campus days that all of us rogues (enlightened ones, don't forget) were together. (A friend from D1 - which was a girls' dorm - did not fail to remind me that the enlightening was because our dorm was located next to theirs!)

With 'Enlightened Rogues' (From left): Sidey, Sardar, Chandu and Pondy
Anitha, the wife of one of my dorm-mates (Sidey) has been my unofficial medical advisor for about 15 years now but we had never actually met in person. All our interactions had been through Whatsapp and email. She is from Chennai and practises in New York. Sidey is from Mumbai and works in New York. I am from Palakkad and settled in Coimbatore. Jaya is also from Palakkad and settled in Coimbatore. It must be obvious to you now that we had to travel to Ahmedabad to meet for the first time.
With (from left) : Sidey, Jaya, Anitha, Sujit, Pondy and Chandu
This being the 25th year reunion, there were many more batch mates attending than was the case last time. So I met a lot more friends who I had thought I would never meet again. As it has happened at all reunions, I was astonished at how much people could remember about various incidents that had happened in our campus days. In the Yearbook that we were given, I couldn't remember many incidents that my batch mates had described. While going around the campus, my recollection of some regular haunts was quite hazy. It was another reminder of how my life before my stroke is becoming more like a hazy dream. 

I was having more trouble remembering incidents and places rather than people which is a blessing. 'My path, thank God, took me to Oxford but my path, thank God, took me away from it', said Santayana. I can make a similar remark about my areas of study in college - 'My path, thank God, led me towards Engineering and MBA, but my path, thank God, led me away from them.' But I cannot make a similar remark about the friends I made there. In their case, I would say - ''My path, thank God, led me to them and my path, thank God, kept me with them.

Apparently, Confucius said that if a person is searching for happiness, it is essential for him to find the right chair to sit. This worthy problem has been addressed satisfactorily for a while in my case so I have to consider what else Confucius said. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clue. I am sure that meeting friends made long ago and exchanging gossip with them would have figured very high in his list.

In one of his incomparable works (I don't remember which one),  one of the timeless Wodehousian characters (I seem to have forgotten who it was), said, “One of the poets, whose name I cannot recall, has a passage, which I am unable at the moment to remember, in one of his works, which for the time being has slipped my mind, which hits off admirably this age-old situation.” I find myself in the shoes of that Wodehousian character - I am sure there was a poem which described beautifully the pleasure of meeting old friends after a long time but I am not able to recall which one it was.

I once heard Jorge Luis Borges say, 'You can read what you want but you can't write what you want; you can write only what you are able to.' It is generally agreed that I can't write a decent poem to save my life. That being the case, I will spare you the torture of reading my pathetic attempt to mimic that great poem. (It really was great, take my word for it.)

With all my batch mates
One of de riguers of any reunion is a DJ night and we had two of them. It is a time when middle-aged folks try to emulate youngsters while their amused children look on. A friend was telling us about the lunch menu at her office meetings. I forget the sequence of items but  the final course would always be thairu shaadam (curd rice). For many Tamilians, a meal is never complete without some thairu shaadam. A DJ night is the thairu shaadam equivalent of reunions.


PS: In the two years that I was in Ahmedabad, I had never thought of going to Sabarmati Ashram. Over the past year, I had been reading about Gandhi and have become a big admirer so I decided to go there on this trip.
With my brother-in-law at Sabarmati Ashram

Monday, January 8, 2018

Another curious nurse - II

The nurse seemed to have a persecution complex and seemed to feel that everybody was always talking about her. For example, she will sometimes clean the tracheostomy tube in the morning thinking that Jaya is not at home.  Jaya will come to my room after some time maybe to tell me about a guest who would be coming home later that day. About an hour or two later, the nurse will suddenly ask me why Jaya was displeased about her cleaning the tracheostomy. I will be surprised since the topic had never come up.

She will crib to me about such matters when Jaya is not around so I will not be able to clear the air. But I think even if somebody was around to clarify matters, she would not have been convinced since she was always right. She seemed to have an inferiority complex in front of Jaya which she countered by adopting a superiority complex. Like Neetu Singh, she used to keep saying,  ‘I know everything!’

Once Jaya had some health issues and the doctor told her to lose some weight. Accordingly she joined a gym which increased the nurse's ill-feeling towards her. The reason was that she used to see Jaya going alone to the gym and wondered why she was not taking me also along with her. She was convinced that if I did the exercises in the gym regularly, I would become alright! She would mention her idea to the physiotherapist who would just smile. She concluded that the physiotherapists were useless - she was giving them such great suggestions which were not being taken seriously!

She was fond of buying lottery tickets and would look religiously in the newspaper to check if she had won. (One of her favorite movie scenes was regarding a Malayalam comedy actor being fooled about a lottery ticket.) She is the only person I have met who had won a lottery. She used to win small amounts like Rs. 500 or Rs. 100 quite often. She would tell me that when she wins a large amount, she will buy me a wheelchair! She was convinced that nobody bothered about me. Although I don't know why she decided on a wheelchair because I never heard her criticizing the one I have.

She would imply that my feeding had not been proper and now that it was 'proper' after she came, I didn't have any excuse for simply lying on the bed without speech. She would say, 'If you don't speak, how will the nurses who come after me be able to understand you?' It didn't seem to occur to her at all that she had been here for only a year while my stroke had happened over 18 years ago.

A reason why the nurse thought that nobody was bothered about me was that Jaya often avoided coming to my room when she was present so that arguments are avoided. Jaya tells me that whenever she comes to my room, her eyes will immediately fall on the one thing that was not ok! It may be the feeding vessel that had not been washed properly, a bit of the medicine still sticking to the porcelain bowl in which the tablets are crushed, etc. The nurse will never agree that she is responsible for these things so when she is not around, Jaya will set these things right.

It is said that on Krishna's hint, Bhima tore Jarasanda's body into two halves and threw them in opposite directions. Listening to the nurse's comments, I would be similarly torn between the opposing emotions of wanting to keep my cool and wanting to 'snap' at her in irritation. In Very Good, Jeeves, when Bertie Wooster realises that Jeeves was actually steering him away from a soup when he had thought that he was being led into it, he says:
It was like those stories one used to read as a kid about the traveller going along on a dark night and his dog grabs him by the leg of his trousers and he says, 'Down, sir! What are you doing, Rover?'and the dog hangs on and he gets rather hot under the collar and curses a bit but the dog won't let him go and then suddenly the moon shines through the clouds and he finds he's been standing on the edge of a precipice and one more step would have - well anyway, you get the idea...
As so often in the past, my equivalent of that faithful dog was my lack of speech. I would try my best to be like a well-bred statue and would just try to contort my facial muscles into what  I would hope approximated a smile. I would not always succeed and I would sometimes go over the edge of the precipice much to my regret later because I must admit that she ultimately did stick on for one and a half years which was a lot more than what many other nurses managed. Also she was the only nurse in the last 4 years or so who got up at night when I wanted to pass urine.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Another curious nurse -I

 I once had a nurse who would have been an interesting subject for Sir Roderick Glossop, the loony doctor who used to hound Bertie Wooster. (I mean the doctor's patients were loony, not that the doctor was loony, although Bertie would have said that such a conclusion was also perfectly justified.)

Once the nurse said that she wanted to visit a patient she had looked after some years ago who she said lived nearby. She had met his wife in the bus a couple of days earlier and the latter had asked her to come over one day. The rest of the conversation went as follows (J- Jaya, N -nurse):

J - Did you note the phone number?
N - No
J - Do you know the address?
N - No
J - Then how will you find the house?
N - It near 'Patterns' shop near SBI bus stop.(That's a bus stop near our house.)
     Once I go there, I will be able to find the house.
J -  There is no 'Patterns' shop there. How long ago did you go there?
N - About 4 years ago.
J -  The shop must have changed. What is the person's name?
N - Swaminathan
J - There must be a lot of Swaminathans around. What are his initials?
     Where is he working?
N - Don't know his initials. I think he was working in SBI.
J - Which branch?
N - Don't know. His wife is a doctor.
J - Which hospital?
N - Don't know.

She asked a couple of other people about the location of the house and the conversations proceeded along similar lines. Maybe Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot would have found it easy to guess the address from the clues she gave and said that it was elementary but the people she consulted were not up to the task. But she was confident that she will be able to find the house. Her attempts to locate the house reminded me of a character in George Orwell's essay, Bookshop Memories:
Many of the people who came to us were of the kind who would be a nuisance anywhere but have special opportunities in a bookshop. For example, the dear old lady who 'wants a book for an invalid' (a very common demand, that), and the other dear old lady who read such a nice book in 1897 and wonders whether you can find her a copy. Unfortunately she doesn't remember the title or the author's name or what the book was about, but she does remember that it had a red cover.
One day the nurse decided that she will go alone and find the house. Jaya gave her the directions to SBI bus stop as she couldn't accompany her (since it would have meant that I would have to be alone). Within half an hour, she returned home sheepishly admitting that she couldn't locate the house and that the people she had asked for directions couldn't help her. She was still confident that she will be able to find the house one day although she never tried again while she was here.

All through the time the nurse was here, she had the unshakable belief that I could actually move and talk and I was faking my ailment so that others would do my work for me. Otherwise pray tell me, how was it possible that while she had ‘cured’ many patients, I had remained indifferent to her best efforts? Sometimes, she would whisper a threat to me when I have a visitor. What was this threat? ‘Shall I tell them that you can actually do everything and you are only pretending now?' My secret was safe with her for the moment but mind it, I could be outed by her any moment!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Strangeness of attention

I had written about how Gandhi spoke calmly forcing people to strain to hear him. A similar situation is described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Antifragile. He writes of the time when he had to give some lectures. He was asked to do some antics on the stage to attract attention and speak in a clear voice which he refused to do. He writes:
I find it better to whisper, not shout. Better to be slightly inaudible, less clear...One should have enough self-control to make the audience work hard to listen, which causes them to switch into intellectual overdrive. This paradox of attention has been a little bit investigated: there is empirical evidence of the effect of 'disfluency'...The management guru Peter Drucker and the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, the two people who mesmerised the crowds the most in their respective areas, were the antithesis of the polished-swanky speaker or the consonant-trained television announcer.
Psychologists divide the brain conceptually into two parts: System 1 represents what we call intuition and System 2 represents reason, self-control and considered decision making. System 1 is fast and does not require much effort. System 2 is slow and requires effort. We rely most of the time on System 1 for our regular activities and it does fine. Occasionally, this causes problems. There are times when using System 2 would have been beneficial but we often skip it since it requires time and effort. Advertising, political, nationalistic and religious messages target System 1 which is why they are so effective.

The brain measures what psychologists call the ‘cognitive ease’ of a given situation. If it determines a particular situation to be easy, it decides that extra effort need not be made to process it and that the information can be processed by System 1 by itself without bringing System 2 online. When you can hear a speaker clearly, the brain determines a situation of cognitive ease and extra effort of System 2 is not called upon. (Of course, this should not be taken too far. If you can’t hear a speaker properly because say, fire-crackers are going off around you – as happens during Diwali – your System 2 working at full tilt is not going to help you.)

Similarly, when the font is large and you can see the writing clearly, the brain has a sense of cognitive ease and it avoids extra work.  I have experienced this effect quite often. When I get a book that  has fonts a bit smaller than usual, I have some difficulty in seeing it. This makes me read a bit slower than usual and this helps in grasping the matter better. Again, this should not be taken too far. There is a certain ‘twilight zone’ where the greater effort of System 2 is effective. Before reaching this zone, the quick but superficial System 1 is in charge. Beyond this zone, System 2 is ineffective.

The situations of cognitive ease and strain have various effects on how we process information. When you are in a state of cognitive ease, you are more likely to like and believe what you see and hear. You are also likely to be more casual and superficial in your thinking. In a state of cognitive strain, you are more likely to be vigilant and invest more effort in whatever you are doing. Daniel Kahneman writes in Thinking, Fast and Slow:
…predictable illusions inevitably occur if a judgment is based on an impression of cognitive ease or strain. Anything that makes it easier for the associative machine to run smoothly will also bias beliefs. A reliable way to make people believe falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. . Authoritarian institutions and advertisers have always known this fact.
A psychological effect called the Dr Fox effect shows the impact of speaking styles on an audience. An actor with no formal training in a subject was told to give a convincing, exciting lecture and a bland, formal lecture; with the content for both lectures being  basically nonsense. It was found that people felt they had learned a lot more from the engaging lecture rather than the more conventional one even though they didn’t notice that in both cases the talks were gibberish.

The audience tends to get distracted by the speaker's hand movements and fails to pay attention to what he is saying. This was demonstrated to me during a communications class when I was working in Bajaj Auto Ltd. The speaker told us to follow his instructions. He then told us - 'Touch your forehead', 'Touch your ear', 'Touch your eye'...All the while his hands were doing what he was saying. Then he said, 'Touch your cheek' while he touched his chin. I think everyone in the room without exception touched his chin. He kept repeating, 'Touch your cheek' while we stared at him wondering why he was repeating his instructions. We realised our mistake a moment later and stared at each sheepishly.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Commemorative days

Every day seems to commemorate something. There is Father's day, Mother's day, Valentine's day, Friendship day, etc. Most of these are marketing gimmicks to enable shops to sell more cards and gifts.  But there are some less well-known and more interesting commemorative days. Did you know that today is French Toast Day? Here are some more such days:
  • World Pangolin Day is the 16th of February. The pangolin, also known as a scaly ant-eater, is a rare, scale-covered mammal about the size of a house cat. It is insectivorous and mainly nocturnal. It is a shy animal that rolls up in a ball to protect itself. It can fend off lions in this manner, but not poachers who just pluck these critters out of the jungle and toss them into sacks. Pangolin meat and scales are quite valuable on the black market (the meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam and the scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine) .  The pangolin is thought to be the most trafficked mammal in the world. So one can't grudge it having a day to itself.
  • Pi (Greek letter ) Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world.  It also happens to be Albert Einstien's birthday. In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution designating March 14 as "National Pi Day" to encourage “schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.” This is the day for you to bone up on some facts and impress everyone at parties.
  • Towel Day (25th of May) is celebrated as a tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001). On that day, fans around the universe carry a towel in his honour, a way for them to say 'Thanks for all the fish'. The importance of the towel was explained in his book The Hitch hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 
A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. 
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost." What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
  • World Beard Day is celebrated the first Saturday of September. Whether you prefer a goatee, Van Dyke, mutton chops, or chin curtain this is the day dedicated to your facial glory. It is all about promoting and elevating the global status of the the beard. Shaving on World Beard Day is universally considered to be highly disrespectful. Things can get quite weird on this day. For eg., in the Swedish village of Dönskborg, anyone without a beard is banished from the town and forced to spend twenty-four hours in a nearby forest. Back in the town, the hirsute burn effigies of their clean-chinned loved ones. The "Official World Beard Day All-Bearded Human Pyramid" pits countries against each other in a battle for national pride.
  • Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It is celebrated on 13 October. It is aimed at highlighting role models to inspire the next generation in the hope that increasing their visibility will inspire future generations. Ada Lovelace Day was founded in 2009 because of a worry that women in tech were invisible. Lovelace was Lord Byron’s daughter, though she didn’t know her father very well. She was schooled in maths and science, unlike the majority of girls at the time she was growing up. Her social circle included Charles Babbage, and her grasp of the potential for his Analytical Engine has led her to be hailed as the first computer programmer.
  • International mud day is celebrated on June 29th. It is the day where children, adults, and organizations across the globe get muddy to raise awareness about the importance of nature for children. After all, as American botanist Luther Burbank said, “Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers,water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade…bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to toll, sand, snakes and hornets; any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of…education.”
You will never be short of 'days' to celebrate if you visit daysoftheyear.com where you will find Trivia Day, Peculiar People Day, Laugh And Get Rich Day, Unique Names Day, Tell An Old Joke Day, Cliché Day, ...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Indian epics - II

In certain versions of the Ramayana, Sita is Ravana’s daughter. She has a curse on her head that she would bring death to her father. Knowing about the curse, Ravana tries to get rid of her, and she ends up in a strange northern land where she marries Rama. An unsuspecting Ravana kidnaps Sita and ultimately gets killed by Rama. Here Rama, as the son-in-law of Ravana, can be seen as the substitute son.  Thus the story has shades of the Oedipus story in Greek mythology where the son kills the father.

Ramanujan says that folk versions of the epics often contemporise the action at various points, often raising a laugh. He gives one example from a folk play in Northern Karnataka. When Rama was exiled, the weeping people of Ayodhya followed him to the river bank where he bid them to return, ‘Brothers and sisters, please go home now. I’ll be back in fourteen years.’ When he returned after fourteen years, he found a small group of people standing at the same spot in tattered clothes, long and grey hair and beards and dirty uncut nails.

When he  asked them why they stood the way they did, they said that they were the eunuchs of Ayodhya. Rama had bid goodbye only to the men and women of Ayodhya by addressing them as brothers and sisters. ‘You didn’t bid us goodbye. So we stood here waiting for you.’ Rama was touched by their devotion and ashamed of his oversight. So he blessed them and gave them a boon, ‘O eunuchs of Ayodhya, I’m greatly touched by your devotion. May you be reborn as the next Congress party of India and rule the country!’

Another example of contemporisation of the Ramayana: Since the 18th century, the British had been a powerful presence in India and Ramanujan gives an example of how this fact got reflected in a folk narrative of an epic. In  village enactments of the Ramayana, suitors from all over the universe come to the function where Sita was going to choose her bridegroom. In a North Indian folk version, an Englishman with a  pith helmet, a solar topee, and a hunting rifle regularly appears as one of the suitors of Sita!

The oral traditions give a different picture of women from  that in the written texts. Ramanujan gives two examples. When the Tamburi Dasayyas of Mysore sing the Ramayana, the focus is on Sita's birth, marriage, exile etc.The Tamil story of Mayili Ravanan is set in a time when Rama has defeated the 10-headed Ravana. A 100-headed Ravana arises to threaten the gods and this time he is not able to win. It is Sita who goes to war and defeats the demon.

Ramanujan contrast the characters and moral tone of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The heroes of the Mahabharata are polyandrous, two of the brothers also have other wives while the hero of the Ramayana is strictly monogamous. In Mahabharata,  the characters are complex and each fails spectacularly in the very quality for which he is well-known. For eg., Arjuna, the greatest of warriors, loses his nerve at the first moment of war or the strong Bhima who can defeat Duryodana only by cheating. Ramanujan writes:
The values are ambiguous; no character is unmixed; every act is questionable, and therefore questioned. Not dharma, the good life of right conduct, but dharmasuksmata, or the subtle nature of dharma that mixes good and evil in every act, the impossible labyrinth of the moral life, is the central theme of the Mahabharata. So, the character of every person and the propriety of every major act is the subject of endless legal debate and moral scrutiny.
But in the Ramayana, personal integrity..., fidelity, is supreme. Like an existential hero, Rama picks his way toward his ideal, through accident, obstacle and temptation.  He is in fact, untemptable, cruel in his vow of chastity, admirable but unlovely in his literal insistence on what is just, even against faithful and obedient wife. As character is all, the Ramayana is full of suspicions and doubts - every character and virtue, even the chastity of Sita and the fidelity of Lakshmana, are tested in the crucible of doubt. The Mahabharata is replete with legal debates because dharma itself is subtle, the Ramayana is replete with doubts, tests and acts of truths because everything in dharma depends on character. 


Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Indian epics - I

In one of his essays, A.K. Ramanujan says that Hindus don’t come across the Indian epics for the first time by reading and when they do finally read it, it won’t be in Sanskrit.They would be familiar with it from stories told by parents, elders, discourses, village plays, and other such oral traditions.

Ramanujan says that though it is generally thought that writing is fixed and speech is constantly changing, it is not necessarily so in the Indian context. A text like the Vedas is fixed but was not written down until 2000 years after its composition.They were considered magical texts that would devastate anyone who mispronounced them. They were transmitted using elaborate teaching systems by experts learned  in grammar, syntax, logic and poetics. So though they were in the oral tradition,  they retained high fidelity in transmission.

On the other hand, a text like the epic story in the written tradition of the Ramayana seems to allow endless variation. Hundreds of variations exist, written, sung, danced and sculpted in South  and Southeast Asian languages. The epics are texts that were originally oral traditions. Writing did not necessarily fix them, nor did it prevent their having other and parallel lives. Such fixed-phase and variable-phase forms exist in both written and oral traditions and cannot be generalized.

Classics like Mahabharata and Ramayana have multiple existences - in many regions, languages and versions, in oral and written media, in 'classical' and 'folk' modes, in ancient and current renditions. These epics are known widely - among literate and illiterate, among young and old - which is not the case with Western epics like the Illiad. The Indian epics are  in daily consciousness though proverbs, phrases, songs, movies, magazines and TV. In Europe, only the myriad uses to which the Bible is put can be compared to these epics.

In all traditions, especially Indian, the oral and written forms are deeply intermingled. Ramanujan says that many of the differences in the texts of Indian epics may be 'due to the way the texts do not simply go from one written form to another but get reworked through oral cycles that surround the written word'. This pattern means that Western analytical methods may not be suitable for reconstruction of these epics. These methods are aimed at making tree-diagrams that relate one text to another reaching back to an Ur-text which is deemed to be the original text from which the others descended.

There are around 300 Rama stories in different languages and countries of South and South East Asia. Ramanujan prefers to call these different stories tellings rather than variants or versions because the latter words imply that there is an original or Ur-text from which these stories have later been derived. This Ur-text is often assumed to be Valmiki’s Sanskrit Ramayana but many tellings have significant variations from Valmiki’s Ramayana. (Ramanujan’s essay 300 Ramayanas had stirred up a controversy.) Indian epics may not have such a reconstructable Ur-text 'enmeshed as they were in oral traditions at various stages of their composition and transmission'.

More than 300 Ramayanas have been written and in the later Ramayanas, comparisons will sometimes be made with other Ramayanas. Ramanujan gives the example of the Adhyatma Ramayana, probably written in the 11th century. In it, like in other Ramayanas, the hero Rama is exiled. He tries to dissuade Sita from going into the dangerous forest with him. But Sita insists on sharing the exile and hardships with him. After the argument continues for some time, an exasperated Sita comes up with the knock-down argument, 'Countless Ramayanas have been composed. Do you know of one where Sita does not go into the forest with Rama? Ramanujan writes:
Such self-reference to other or prior examples of the narrative, often implicit, makes texts like the Ramayana not merely single, autonomous texts but also members of a series with a family resemblance. When we add Jain Ramayanas and folk Ramayanas, the Rama story becomes a language with which each text says many different things in different periods and regions - but they require each other because they refer to each other.