Guns and grass

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There is an interesting story in the Mahabharata not as often retold. It is the story of how the illustrious, valiant clan of the Yadavas to which Krishna belonged, destroyed themselves. Fearing bad omens surfacing in his land, Krishna and the Yadavas go on a pilgrimage to Prabas – a holy town near the ocean. A fight breaks out between factions that cannot agree assumedly on what had transpired in the great war of Mahabharata. Words lead to blows. In a fit of anger, Krishna reaches out to a blade of Eraku grass that miraculously turns into an iron weapon and kills the miscreants. Taking a cue from him, everyone reaches out to the blades of grass that turn into lethal weapons. They are intoxicated and overcome by anger, rage, passion. It is only too easy to “pull the trigger”. They charge the weapons on each other. Quickly the situation escalates into a full-fledged bloodbath and in the ensuing skirmish, the Yadavas manage to wipe out their entire race. A part of this weapon finally causes the end of Krishna too. It is a tragic end to a glorious people.

There are different theories on what transpired, who cursed whom, what the weapon was, what caused the end. It is hard to comprehend how in one instant, harmless grass becomes a stockpile of dangerous weapons. In the hands of an inebriated lot, the weapons become nothing short of complete annihilation. What haunts me particularly, is how easy and quick the decimation is and how fickle our own nature is. A model people, why Krishna the exalted himself, instead of conducting with grace gives into anger and violence in that moment of madness. The weapon brings out the ugly in the most beautiful of people.

When I hear about tragedies of Sandy Hook, Columbine, San Bernadino I am reminded of this story. Weapons in the arms of a chosen few are permissible in a society where we wish for collective law and order to prevail. Weapons freely available to anyone and everyone is a different story. I have trouble accepting the argument of defense as a justification. This is not a video-game or movie where we are Jedis fighting the dark force. There is real blood spilled and real loss of life. Innocent lives that are taken away with one wrong move. If we own a firearm, when do we decide is the right time to discharge it? Have we been trained in all ways of dealing with and deescalating a situation before resorting to firearms as the last resort? Cops, army-men go through that kind of rigorous training. Why then is it so easy for us, the general public, to circumvent this kind of vigilance and conscientiousness. Even so, I digress from the current debate. People can have their lightsabers if they want to and if they are qualified to. I can accept that. We are expected to pass a driver’s license test before we drive a car. Why then are some basic logical background checks before we buy a firearm, be it in a shop or a show or online, so hard to accept?

There are by some measures, at least 300 million firearms in the United States. Roughly one for each person. Freely rampant all around us, as common as grass. When I first heard this statistic on the radio, I remember getting down from the car feeling wary and skittish of every person I saw on the road. Who knows who was walking around with a gun. It is only too easy to pull the trigger.

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