“Minister, we have some stunning news,” the secretary panted out as he rushed into the minister’s office.

The minister was not pleased at this abrupt entrance. It was a busy day, and as the person in charge for enforcement of the new Citizenship Amendment Act, he had a lot to do.

“What is it,” he curtly asked.

“Sir, this is a most urgent news. I just had to let you know right away. “ the secretary just blurted out these words, still short of breath. Pausing a moment, he added – “Sir, they found Rama, Sita and Lakhsmana in the Kiskindhya forest in northern Andhra.”

“Hai Rama!’, the minister exclaimed, almost falling out of his chair in shock. He gathered himself and said – “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely sure, Sir. Some of our surveyors who were in the forest aea, first reported the news. After initial hesitation, thinking it was a hoax, I went there to check first hand. I was initially sceptical, but now I have no doubts. The surveyors had reported about a husband and his wife and his brother staying in the forest, and said their names were Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. I met them, and they looked similar to the icons we know about, much like in the images we have of them in Amar Chitra Katha, only somewhat darker. There was some kind of divine presence about them, I could feel the energy when talking to them. I verified by asking Rama where he was from, and were the name of his parents, he correctly replied that he was from Ayodhya and his parents were Dasaratha and Kausalya.”

“But what on earth are they doing in the forest in this day and age?” the minister asked, still trying to come to terms with the news.

“I asked Rama this same question, Sir. He said that when he feels the need to guide the world, he appears as incarnations across ages, to show people the path of virtue. He said that he had sensed that the world was going astray, and that people needed guidance on how to live, and so he decided to make an appearance.”

“Good God! Make sure that this is kept secret for now, and no one enters or leaves the forest. Did you find out anything about his plans?” – the minister eagerly asked.

“Right now I have cordoned off the forest and no one can enter or leave. Regarding his plans, I found that he and Sita and Lakshmana are just living the simple life of the forest dweller, Sir, just like it was described in the Ramayana. They live entirely on forest produce, even the clothes they wear are made out of barks and leaves. He just wants to set an example of simple and sustainable living. It appears he understands that the world has changed, but he feels that leading a simple life with integrity is something anyone can choose whatever their circumstances, and he wants to set an example for that.”

“Well, I do not think he quite understands modern life. I doubt if he had even

seen any of the modern machines our technologies have given us during his last appearance, so he would not understand the benefits those bring. Science has gone far ahead and technology has changed society!”

“Sir, I told him that we live in quite a different world. He insisted that the world might have new tools, but the basic principles of how people should live in this world remains the same.”

This ruffled the minister. “I do not understand this. What would he know about modern society? He last appeared thousands of years ago, when the world was very different. The archaic ideals on how society runs do not work in today’s world. Rama has no business to interfere in our lives today,” he responded irately.

“I agree, Sir,” the secretary meekly nodded.

The minister had regained his composure. He asked, in a more business like manner – “Did he have any documentation?”

“Sorry Sir, he did not have any. I asked him about it, as it is part of the citizenship survey. He did not seem to understand. He said forest-dwellers live in the forest, and like them, what proof would he need? And that he already told the name of his parents. He was surprised that anyone would want any proof of residence from a forest dweller.”

“That is not his business to decide what is needed!” The minister shouted angrily. Everyone must have the right documentation. Otherwise they will be counted as illegal immigrants, and then they would need to have the appropriate religious belief if they want citizenship. Did you ask him what religion he believed in – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism?”

“I did Sir, it is part of our survey protocol now, once someone does not have proof of citizenship. I am afraid he did not understand the question. I guess gods themselves do not believe in religions, Sir,” the secretary meekly noted.

“That is a problem, that means he is illegal and cannot stay in the country. Maybe we should relocate him – or even move him to a camp for illegal immigrants who have been detained. And don’t we need to get him out in any case? Were we not going to clear the forest and open it up for mining? Is that not the place from where the marble stones of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple will be coming from?”

“Yes, that is right. I also mentioned about the temple to him. I am sorry to say sir, that he was very angry about the proposed idea. He said that he had set an example of simple and righteous living, and did not expect a large elaborate temple be constructed in his name. I was quite afraid when he was upset, and I assured him we would reconsider the idea.”

“Reconsider?!”, the minister almost exploded in anger. “What do you mean reconsider? We need to have the temple, we got votes because we said we would build the temple. Otherwise we will need to reconsider the future of our party! This is really a problem, Rama should have kept his ideals to himself and not meddled in our business!”

“I agree Sir, but what else could I have done?”

“Did you offer to relocate him?”

“Yes sir, we did. He would not hear of going from the forest. He claims that this is the same forest that he had appeared in last, and sees no reason to go to another one.”

“Well, maybe we can use force to get him out?”

“I would not advice that Sir,” the secretary responded. “I heard that both Rama and Lakhsmana are very sharp marksmen with their bows and arrows. The forest dwellers and even the monkeys of the forest are on their side. Besides, if we try to use force, he might unleash some heavenly weapon on us, and our bombs and bullets would be nothing compared to that! Besides, it would be a great scandal if there is an incident and his presence in the forest becomes public knowledge. I suggest we try some other method.”

“What else can we do?” the minister sounded hopeless.

Suddenly, he had an idea. “Let us declare the forest as an internment camp. Since you already have it surrounded, no one else can come in or go out. The forest dwellers are illegals anyway. This way we can keep the whole business quiet. Just make sure Ravana can get in, even if disguised as an old Brahmin. If he does abduct Sita, Rama will follow them to Lanka, and the place will be cleared!”

The secretary was thrilled. “Great idea, minister”, he assented.

Siddhartha Mitra is a writer based out of New York City


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