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Interview with Rahwana 
By Yudistira ANM Massardi
Translated by Patricia B. Henry
In the moment before Anoman threw him headfirst into the earth, Rahwana had time to curse: “It may be that my physical body will disappear after this, but the essence of my being will live on. It will soak into the soul of every human being. For centuries to come…”
The earth which held him tight then swallowed him and crushed him to bits. The sky reverberated with thunder. Then it grew dark. From the deep crack in the earth into which the tragic figure of Alengka’s ruler had disappeared, millions of black bubbles came forth and swiftly spread over the entire world.
Sanjaya – the world’s first war correspondent, who had previously been the eye-witness reporter for the huge battle of the Bharata family on the field of Kurusetra, and who had then had the opportunity to witness the death of this major scoundrel – immediately went in pursuit. He asked for the assistance of Anoman so that he could follow Rahwana’s soul into the earth as it headed for the hereafter.
What follows are excerpts from Sanjaya’s interview with that Fountainhead of all Evil.
Sanjaya (S): “Do you agree with the occurrence and the manner of the death which you have just experienced?”
Rahwana (R): “Death, or even life, is not a matter to be agreed to or not. Both of them are very simple matters, such that they needn’t be considered a problem. As for the ‘manner,’ is it really all that important? Humans certainly have all kinds of nasty habits. Just like you, they always have a passion to ask about how somebody died and how somebody lived. Those kinds of ‘tragic’ questions only have importance for the dramatic concerns of the plot that is being acted out.
“The manner of my death which you just witnessed was indeed dramatic. How could a person who had so much power, who had been given the boon of invulnerability and who was rich beyond imagining, come to an end so miserable and helpless? That contrast is the particular stipulation that has been highlighted. But you may be certain: I am not dead in the usual sense of the word. Because fundamentally I continue to live. My death is the instrument which will bring about the eternal existence of my essence in the world.
“The disintegration of my physical body serves to strengthen my essence. You’ll be able to prove it when as a result of this event the world will fill with black bubbles – you saw them just now? (Sanjaya nodded). That is the form of my new power. A truly tenacious evil.
“So, should I really protest against my death and the way it happened? I shouldn’t, right? (Sanjaya nodded again). And as for the way I lived while I was Alengka’s ruler, will you sensationalize it for the sake of those dramatic concerns I was talking about? Oh, and by the way, where will this interview be aired? Oh, never mind, never mind. If it’s aired or not, it’s no concern of mine. But the way I lived, the way in which I managed authority, the way I indulged family members far and near, I suppose it is important to have all that expressed in your report. By all means, write down your views of all that. Expose whatever scandal you think has been going on. Go ahead and smash everything up, if the smashing is sufficiently dramatic. I won’t be sorry. Because I’ll be there inside the soul of every person who wants to ransack whatever remains of my power and property. It is the job of my essence to encourage all of this.”
S: “Can you describe in concrete terms how large that power is?”
R: “As large as the cosmos.”
S: “Do you control every human being?”
R: “Every human being has the instinct for evil.”
S: “What profit do you get from power like that?”
R: “That’s always how it is. Everybody always thinks about profit and loss. What’s the big deal with profit and loss? And surely you know, I’m no tradesman. However wicked, I am of the kesatria caste. A kesatria never thinks like a tradesman. Profit and loss have no meaning to us. What’s important to me is consistency in the ideals of struggle. I must nuture fatalism and the destruction of human dignity. It is my task and duty to cultivate ruthless greed on the face of this earth.”
S: “Doesn’t this duty of yours make you sick at heart?”
R: “Oh, please! What is it with you, anyway? Grief, happiness, and all those things that sound so emotional – like profit and loss, they have no meaning for me. Kesatria are not such cry-babies. A prince who grasps in his fist a substantial power cannot be overcome with melancholy. He must resolutely carry out his task. The kind of sentimental clap-trap you speak of is something only for slaves. For the peasants. Because once a prince lets himself be swept away by feelings, he will become shaken and uncertain. Power will slip away from his hand. After that comes his downfall. Do you understand? A prince is prohibited from losing that which has become his possession. That which he possesses must be held onto until the last drop of blood has been shed. There is no compromise.”
S: “And this is true even if the people who are under your authority are suffering?”
R: “The suffering and pain of underlings is the most important part of absolute power. Without suffering, a given power has no meaning. In fact, without the pain of many people, it isn’t possible for a given power to maintain itself with firmness.”
S: “If there are critics who say that you don’t want to hear or pay attention to the complaints of your underlings….?”
R: “Critics? That is the most beautiful part of holding on to a powerful position. Critics are important from a dramatic standpoint. The sobs and complaints of underlings are sweet and gentle background music for the dream-filled night.”
S: “Truly you are sadistic.”
R: “A person in authority who is any good has to be sadistic. And the power that is in my grasp is sadism. Because of that, lots of victims are needed. As sacrificial offerings. Also as a sign of the perpetuity of that power.”
S: “Do you have power over all the power-holders in this world?”
R: “Why not? Every power-holder, every authority which exists on earth, is an instrument which reverberates with the song of each and every black bubble which diffused from the place where my physical body was hurled down just now.”
S: “What is your commitment to those power-holders?”
R: “Eh? That’s a secret….”
S: “Very well. As for your future plans, will you be choosing heaven or hell?”
R: “Oh, bullshit. What kind of stupid question is that? Of course I’ll choose hell. I suggest that you do the same when your turn comes. There are lots of problems there that you need to look into. I think that a bit of reporting from hell would be quite interesting. Because, as I said before, human beings prefer things to be dramatic, don’t they? Heaven is too calm. Too peaceful, to the point that there are no more problems. But in hell, every minute there is a huge fuss and excitement, and all manner of troublesome people coming together there. You can interview them. All the pain and regret that they bring forward will surely make excellent reminders for those who still live, right? For that, certainly you will earn a suitable karmic reward. Also, in that place you will be able to meet all the power-holders of the earth who were slaves to their own greediness.”
S: “A final question. What is your opinion of Dewi Sinta, the wife of Sri Rama, whom you once kidnapped?”
R: “Oh, excellent! Excellent!”
S: “Thank you.”
(Coming up, an interview by Semar of Marilyn Monroe.)
Rahwana = Ravana, the villainous demon king in the Indian epic Ramayana,who kidnaps Sita, the wife of Rama.
Anoman = Hanuman, the magical white monkey who helps Rama defeat Ravana.
Alengka = Langka, Ravana’a kingdom.
Sanjaya = in the Mahabharata, a prince who tells the story of the great battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas to those back home.
Bharata = the family to which both the Pandavas and the Kauravas belong.
Kurusetra = Kuruksetra, the place of the great battle.
kesatria = ksatria, the second caste (or, more properly, varna) in the four caste system of brahmana “priest,” ksatria “ruler/warrior”, vaisya “trades or craftsman”, and sudra “peasant”. The dharma, roughly meaning duty or fate, of each caste differs, and the dharma for ksatria includes violence and killing in the context of righteous war.
Dewi Sinta = Sita, the wife of Rama, who, though kidnapped and held by Ravana for many years, presumably remained pure and faithful to Rama.
in English in the original
Semar = the grotesquely fat clown servant in Javanese wayang shadow theatre.