On the day of Rama’s coronation, in the middle of the royal court, Lakshman started to laugh. Everyone wondered who was Lakshman laughing at. Was he laughing at Ayodhya, victim of palace politics who had to bow before a pair of footwear for 14 years? Was he laughing at Kaushalya who always wanted to see her son crowned king? Was he laughing at Kaikeyi for all her plans to become queen mother had failed? Was he laughing at Bharat for letting go of an opportunity to be king? Was he laughing at his mother Sumitra, and his brother, Shatrughna, who would always be servants no matter who was king? Was he laughing at Sugriva who got Ram to kill his brother to be king or at Vibhishan who became king because he sided with his brother’s enemy? Was he laughing at Jambuvan because the bear was too old and so was overshadowed by Hanuman? Was he laughing at Hanuman who set his own tail aflame to save Ram’s wife and got nothing in exchange? Was he laughing at Sita who had to prove through a trial by fire that she was chaste when she was liberated from Lanka? Was he laughing at Ram for ending up with a wife of soiled reputation?
But Lakshman was laughing at no one. He was laughing at a tragedy that was about to unfold. He could see Nidra, the goddess of sleep, approaching him. He had requested her to leave him alone for 14 years so that he could serve Ram. The 14 years were up and he had to keep his word, fall into deep slumber exactly when he was about to see the one thing he desired most in life–his beloved brother, Ram, being crowned king.
Those who laugh at themselves, or let others crack jokes about them, are seen as sports; they allow others to feel powerful at their expense. But sometimes jokes hit too close to home and strike our deepest insecurities. And then, we snarl.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.