Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The One With The Bitter Lemonade

[Shri Hanuman]“If I offer auspicious words, which are in line with dharma, about the self-realized Rama, the most excellent prince of the Ikshvaku dynasty, saying these words in a sweet voice in hearing me she will believe me, for I will compose everything accordingly so.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.42-43)

ikṣvākūṇām variṣṭhasya rāmasya vidita ātmanaḥ ||
śubhāni dharma yuktāni vacanāni samarpayan |
śrāvayiṣyāmi sarvāṇi madhurām prabruvan giram ||
śraddhāsyati yathā hi iyam tathā sarvam samādadhe |

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It was a rare occasion indeed, as Sanjay was in his room on this night studying. It was his senior year of college, so as was known to happen to many others, a bit of “senioritis” had kicked in. He was missing classes every now and then. He was spending a lot of time with his friends, enjoying his few remaining months at the college he had called home for almost four years. “I’ll never have this kind of a life again, so I better enjoy every moment,” he told himself constantly.

But on this night he was studying for an exam. Therefore he was in solitude, away from his friends. Late in the evening strangely he received a call. “This is odd, my phone never rings. I wonder who this could be,” he thought to himself as the phone rang a few times. Finally, he closed the book he was reading and reached over to pick up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Yo, it’s me, Samuel.”

“Hey man, what’s going on?”

“You’re not going to believe this. I got arrested.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Yeah, I got arrested.”

As Samuel confirmed this, Sanjay couldn’t help but laugh. In fact, he laughed heartily for the next thirty seconds. The two were good friends, so Sanjay couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Finally composing himself, the conversation continued.

“Yo, this is not funny,” said an upset Samuel.

“I’m sorry man. What happened?”

Samuel then proceeded to describe the course of the events from the night. Their friend Mario was in the partying mood. Mario was part of their small group of friends, which included Matt and Jose as well. Mario was the youngest in the group, and he had yet to reach the legal age for drinking adult beverages. This typically isn’t a problem in universities, for others are around who are more than willing to help. On this night, it was Samuel who was called to duty. Mario drove Samuel to the local store, and Samuel went in and bought the alcoholic beverages that Mario wanted.

“Yeah, so I got Mario’s stuff for him, and then he dropped me off at home,” continued Samuel, who lived off campus. “Then I get a call a few hours later asking me to come down to the campus police station. When I get there, they arrested me. Mario ratted me out. He told them I bought the stuff for him.”

“No way,” said an incredulous Sanjay. “What happened? Why would he do that to you?”

“They stopped him as he was walking back to his dorm. They saw what he was holding in his hands and asked him for ID. From his ID they saw that he was underage so they wanted to know how he got the stuff. Then he named me.”

“Wow, that is crazy. This story is insane. Did you tell the other guys?”

“No, not yet.”

When he got off the phone, Sanjay was still a little shocked. He couldn’t believe Mario had betrayed one of his friends in that way. At the same time, the incident seemed very humorous to him. The sentiment was shared by Matt and Jose, whom Sanjay spoke to over the next few days.

[school newspaper]As the incident took place on a weekend, the friends eagerly anticipated the edition of the school newspaper set to be published the following Monday. That paper always had a short column detailing the various arrests by campus police. The friends figured Samuel would be mentioned. What they discovered was even more surprising. Typically such stories were presented in one or two sentences on a small side column on one of the pages. This incident got better treatment, a written-up story. The title to the story was “Lemonade Turns Bitter For Two,” for the alcohol purchased that night was a brand called Mike’s Hard Lemonade. The story described the events that took place.

When Sanjay ran into Matt that Monday, the two immediately went into discussing the paper.

“Dude, can you believe they did a whole story on it?” asked Sanjay.

“I know, I was shocked. It’s so funny. I picked up like twenty copies. I’m going to save these. It will make for a great memory many years down the line,” replied Matt.

“I was a little surprised at the story. It said that Mario was relieving himself by a tree in the parking lot when the cops spotted him.”

“Yeah, that is a little strange. We’ll see him this weekend at Jose’s birthday party. Maybe we can ask him.”

All the friends were together the next weekend. While hanging out and playing videogames at Matt’s place, Mario arrived. At that point, Samuel, though initially furious at the betrayal, had already spoken with Mario about the incident. The two were on decent terms. The rest of the friends were still a little upset, however.

“How could you do that to him?” asked Sanjay.

“Hey man, it’s the cops. I’m not going to lie to them,” said Mario with a defensive attitude.

“I don’t know, man. That’s one of the most messed up things I’ve ever seen someone do,” said Matt.

“Come on, guys, cut him some slack. I probably would have done the same thing,” said Jose.

After everyone voiced their opinions on the matter, they got to asking about the details of the night. After all, of all of the friends, only Mario knew what really had happened.

“Dude, you were relieving yourself on a tree? You couldn’t hold it in until you got back in the building?” asked Matt.

“No, that part is totally made up. The cops added that part. I was just walking like normal and they saw me. They started interrogating me right away.”

The topic was not discussed again for a few hours. Later on in the night, Sanjay brought it up to Matt.

“Matt, I think I know what happened with the Mario thing.”

“Yeah? What do you think?”

“I have a suspicion that Mario saw the cops first as he was walking back to the building. Feeling afraid of getting caught, he hid by a tree. They then saw him hiding and knew something was up. Otherwise why would they just stop a random person holding a shopping bag?”

“Yeah, that makes sense. I was wondering the same thing. And then later on, to justify why they stopped him, they made up the story of him relieving himself by the tree.”

“And did you notice Mario’s face when he was talking to us,” asked Sanjay. “I knew he was lying. Don’t ask me how, but I just got that feeling. He wasn’t entirely honest with us.”

“I got the same feeling,” said Matt.

Jose, who had overheard their conversation, weighed in on the issue. “Dude, I don’t think he was lying. You guys are reading too much into this. He got caught and ratted out Samuel. Big deal. Just get over it already.”

In this way no one was really sure what had happened. Were the police telling the truth? Was Mario dishonest? Eventually the incident became a distant memory, and all the parties involved went back to getting along as per normal.

Many years later the incident came to Sanjay’s mind again. This occurred while reading the ancient Vedic text, the Ramayana. In one particular section, a dedicated warrior who has an important message to deliver deliberates on the best course of action. His worry is over how the recipient will receive the news. Will she believe him? She doesn’t know who he is at that point in the story, which is an account of historical events put into wonderful Sanskrit poetry. She is surrounded by liars, cheats, frauds, and people of the worst character. Therefore her first inclination would be to discount any information given to her, even if it was good.

[Shri Hanuman]In reading the deliberation of the dedicated messenger, Shri Hanuman, Sanjay couldn’t help but think back to that incident from many years back.

“Hanuman is here worried over how his words will be believed by Sita, the distressed princess. Indeed, it is difficult to decipher the truth. This reminds me of that bitter lemonade incident from my college years. I couldn’t tell if Mario was telling me the truth or not. We couldn’t even believe the police, either, in whom we put so much trust. Even Samuel was dishonest in buying alcohol for someone who was underage.”

Sanjay took note of the decision Hanuman made. Hanuman decided he would speak of Shri Rama, the most excellent prince of the Ikshvaku dynasty. His words would be in line with dharma, or virtue, since they would be about someone who was self-realized. Most importantly, his words would be sweet, a tone Sita had not heard in a while.

“This incident tells me that the only way to know for sure if someone is speaking the truth is if they are speaking about God,” continued Sanjay in his thoughts. “Hanuman decides here to speak accurately about Rama, the Supreme Lord in a wonderful incarnation. Sita, a saintly personality and thus a great truth-detector, would know that Hanuman, though a stranger to her at the time, was speaking the truth. The message given to her would be accepted, and she would take hope that Rama was coming to finally rescue her.”

[Sita and Rama]Sanjay admitted to himself that even he had been dishonest many times in the past, and that perhaps the friends had been too hard on Mario many years back, for dishonesty naturally follows unclean behavior like drinking. Most importantly, he was glad to know the one surefire way to avoid dishonesty. “Simply speak sweet words about Rama. This is something I will try to do.”

In Closing:

Into lying so easy to go,

So real truth how to know?

 

When intoxication and gambling to seek,

So many lies without question to speak.

 

Sita, suffering in Ashoka ground,

With liars and cheats all around.

 

Hanuman deciding on possible way,

Glories of her husband Rama would say.

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