Ramayana reimagined: Was Ravan actually in love with Sita?

A new novel pictures the king of Lanka trying to woo Sita rather than force himself on her.

Ravan was a disturbed man; if not about Vibhishan, Sita occupied his mind and attention. Every day he went to meet her and each day she refused him with a stinging rebuttal. It was almost comic – the powerful hulk of a man beseeching to the slight, frail woman. She was stronger than he believed her to be and he was arrogantly sure that she would succumb to him one day.

But each passing day, Surpanakha saw him becoming increasingly restless: something he had been experiencing in a milder degree since the day Sita had arrived. Fear and frustration made him furious. His love, his liberty, he told her and perhaps even his life, seemed to lie hopelessly in the hands of Sita.

Surpanakha was his new confidante, as he had no one to share his woes with.

She heard it with a strange fascination, how he admitted that the sight of Sita had touched off a spark inside him which no woman had up to now succeeded to do. Watching Sita gave him a sense of satisfied pleasure but he wanted more. He had lost his sleep, and would lay sweating in the semi-darkness, as his mind saw only Sita in the garden, not far from him.

That was the thing that kept him from sleeping – the picture of her lifting her thick, chestnut coloured hair off her white shoulders, the shape of her, sitting under the tree, the young, fresh beauty of her, and the realisation that she was not his but Ram’s wife, piercing him with fury and frustration. The war did not scare him, but that she would leave him, assailed him with agony.

Why had she married Ram, he kept asking himself. A princess wedded to a prince who was now a pauper, a wanderer who had dragged the poor girl with him. How she must have suffered, but yet she had eyes and heart only for him, seethed Ravan, torn and tormented.

Surpanakha watched his wretchedness and tried to snap him out of this mood, as Ram had touched the sandy shores of Lanka, with his army. The war had begun. Kumbha’s twin sons and Prahasta were the first martyrs in the first battle. Sufficiently jolted, Ravan had promised her he would do his best to stop thinking about Sita and focus on the war.

His granduncle warned him repeatedly that she was another man’s wife and therefore sacrosanct.

She wasn’t for him. She couldn’t possibly be for him – ever. And the idea drove Ravan more crazy, frenzied in his frustration. He was crazy to think of her the way he was thinking of her, but it didn’t help, he confessed to Surpanakha. He just couldn’t get her out of his mind.

He tried to be cordial but Sita refused to listen to him, to talk to him. He went down on his knees and promised her she would be his Chief Queen, unseating Mandodari, but Sita simply turned her lovely face away, hard and unrelenting. Ravan sat on his heels, his face pale, his eyes burning, slightly mad. He sat still for a long time and Surpanakha almost felt sorry for him; he cut a pitiable figure. He got heavily to his feet, his face now getting back some colour and walked out of the garden and to the palace. He was shaking with frustrated rage.

Surpanakha turned to Sita,

“How much more do you want to be convinced?” she said. “He has done everything he can for you – from writing poems, giving you gifts, to grovelling at your feet. He loves you, he really does.”

Sita shook her head, “He only wants to possess me. It is his ego, not his love speaking. A true man in love looks after the happiness of the woman he loves and my happiness is with Ram.”

“I have met Ram,” smiled Surpanakha grimly. “But I must admit, Ravan is more flamboyant and charming. Ravan has it all – good looks, wealth, power and knowledge. He is a scholar in the Vedas, Upanishads, the Tantras, astrology and even the occult sciences and dance and music. He is a man none can refuse.”

“He may be knowledgeable but he has no wisdom, he has power but he has no pity, he has pride but knows no humility,” stated Sita, her face unperturbed. “He knows only to own, not to prevail. For him, all are things or pets to possess, to subdue and to make them obey to him. My Ram has nothing, but just his love, thoughts and humility. That suffices for me, I am the wealthiest wife in the world.”

Sita never ceased to amaze Surpanakha. Her serene complacency was disconcerting. Surpanakha still had not yet had an opportunity to gloat and this day would be it. She wanted this girl to feel the same terror which had gripped her when Lakshman had held her arms and brought down his merciless sword on her. To instil that little hint of fear, to wipe out the calm composure off Sita’s face.

She smiled maliciously. “Ravan can always force himself on you,” she purred, the menace thick in her voice.

“The body, you mean,” Sita shrugged her slim, fair shoulders. “I am more than just a body. He cannot possess my heart, my mind, my soul. They all belong to Ram.”

Surpanakha did not know what was more astonishing: the girl’s immeasurable love or her immense faith. Both were her shield, they were her conviction that none could break. “You keep talking about Ram, dear girl but what has he ever done for you?” asked Surpanakha equably. “He broke Shiva’s bow to prove he was the best; he gave up his crown for his brother; he went on exile for his father. But what has he done for you? You gave up a lot for him – your trust, your home, the luxury of the palace; I don’t doubt your love,” she stated, with a purr in her voice. “But love is measured, if not judged, in selflessness, not bravado. Ravan has given his all for you – his pride, his crown, his family, his honour, his reputation, and even his precious Lanka! So, who loves you morem– Ram or Ravan?” She asked.

Sita stared back wordlessly but the defiance had dimmed.

Surpanakha shrugged. “You may realise it a little late...”

“Ram is here in Lanka, that is why Ravan is so agitated,” she said slyly. If not fear, let Sita writhe in hope, she thought viciously.

“I know my Ram will come here for me. And kill Ravan. But Ravan will not come to his senses till it is too late,” said Sita.

Surpanakha flushed, Sita’s confidence was annoying,

“You are fortunate that you have the hospitality of the Ashok garden, how appropriately wooded with the Trees of Lust, dedicated to Kama,” she sneered. “They are bursting with the flowers of love, still intact and not reduced to ashes in the fire like the city,” she said tightly. “The city which burned because of you.”

Sita smiled, “But who got me here? Ravan? Or you? All will blame me for Lanka burning, I can see it in every accusing eye. But will they blame Ravan for his senseless ego? Or you for your unfettered passion? It all started because of that incident at the forest, did it not?”

Sita was staring at her mauled face, still livid in its grotesqueness.

Surpankaha stared at her coldly and thought, Sita had the temerity to remind me of that day.

Excerpted with permission from Lanka’s Princess, Kavita Kané, Rupa Publications.

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What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

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Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.