When Ram and Lakshman sat down to play snakes and ladders, Manthara told them, “For every ladder you climb, remember there’s a snake waiting to swallow you.”
Some snakes will swallow you even before you climb any ladder, Ram realised years later. If you are a potential climber, snakes are more eager to swallow you because they know swallowing is difficult once you have actually climbed.
My ladders were removed even before I reached them, thought Rama. First Kaikeyi, then Ravana, and then the very people of Ayodhya, they all took away the ladder just as I approached it. I took revenge on Ravana, but did I regain my Sita? So what use was it all? I ascended the throne of Ayodhya. For what? To see Sita walk into the flames?
You lacked the courage to stand up to people, said Lakshman. You were more concerned with your image, the facade of the Maryada Purushottam. Lakshman was chagrined when his role model and hero consigned his wife, the most chaste woman, to the flames in the name of agni pariksha just to gain the applause from the gallery. You never protested though you knew deep in your heart that your ladders were being pulled away unjustly. Unnecessarily, in fact.
What would I have achieved by protesting? Ram countered. Kingship? Do you think I was more interested in kingship than in the happiness of Kaikeyi ma?
But your passive acceptance of Kaikeyi’s demand killed our father. When you proffered joy to Kaikeyi you brought deep sorrow to many others in the family.
Both snakes and ladders are essential, brother, to complete the game.
Granted that. Lakshman was thinking. But why do the deserving people encounter more snakes than ladders? He was watching helplessly and remorsefully Sita Devi being swallowed by the earth.