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Mother, writer and daydreamer. Also chocoholic and chick-flick lover. But mainly mommy. To two boys, at that! When not escorting my Elder One (EO) to karate class, I'm trying to get in as many cuddles as possible from my Younger One (YO). And when not doing either, I'm hard-at-work trying to maintain a steady relationship with my laptop. And as for the Man I Married (MIM), well, let’s just put it this way – even though we share a bedroom, our most meaningful conversations are held over the cell-phone!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Of Magic Keer, Murderous Fathers and Libidinous Gods

Mythology has always been a passion of mine and that too from a very young age. Indian, Greek, Roman and Norse. There was a time in my life when I knew the names of all the Gods and Goddesses of these vast and varied pantheons along with their back-stories. That time in my life was when I was nine years old!! (Yup! I can't help but marvel at it myself!!)

Although I still do remember lots, there are big gaps in my memory as far as the Latin, Greek and Nordic myths go. I should go back and refresh my memories...

However, Indian mythology has a strong-hold over me. I've read at least seven different versions of the Mahabharatha -- THE greatest epic EVER written, in my humble opinion -- and I am ready to read seventy more. I never tire of it.
I have over 100 Amar Chitra Kathas and they rank on my list of 'Top Ten Material Possessions'. And yes, I will buy more! Twas a dark day in my young like when Maa-Janoni sold the sixty odd that I had to the raddiwallah! Yes! My own flesh and blood! The woman who gave birth to me! 'Tis a pain worse than a 24-hour toothache!

I can do a separate post on Amar Chitra Kathas and maybe one day I will. this post is about something else...

Growing up gorging on these wondrous myths and legends, my concept of the Gods and Goddesses, Indian values (moral as well as social), the Hindu way of life...they fascinated me...and at times, confounded me...and at other times, scared the holy crap out of me! What fascinating stories! What frightening consequences! What colourful lives!!

How could Krishna have more than 108 wives? Did He Have favourites? If He could, why couldn't mortal men?
And Shiv actually Burnt Kama to a crisp? He nearly Destroyed the Earth with a dance?
So magic kheer could get three queens pregnant, huh? Wow! Sure takes all the fun out of baby-making!
And a magic mantra that could help you summon any God of your desire for a booty call?
And how could one man beget 60,000 sons?
Gods with weaknesses; rishis with black tongues and powerful curses; immaculate conceptions; surrogacy; incest; illegitimacy; nuclear warfare; in-vitro fertilisation...all of it, ALL of it, right there in our myths, legends and epics.

But so many of these stories of our Gods and Goddesses actually played foul with my innocence; toyed around with my sense of morality and right'n'wrong; and just caused me to question, question and question some more. And the questions got tougher and tougher...

How does one justify Ram, 'the perfect man', killing Vali the way He did? And His treatment of Sita?!? (That one still makes my blood boil and it's why I'm not a big fan of the Ramayana.)
Wasn't Ravan a devotee of Shiva and Indrajit a devotee of Durga? So explain puja, worship and devotion to me here... In fact, many of the 'asuras' were devotees of various Gods. So does that mean, after all, that the Gods and Goddesses do indeed Have favourites?
And how on earth could Draupadi tell which son beloged to which Pandava?
The apsaras...celestial nymphs, multi-talented artistes or divine whores?
It just goes on and on...

And today, I saw my son face a similar horror and dilemma.

He was watching 'Bal Ganesha' on TV. Nothing new; he'd seen it a couple of times before. Today though, I think he was really, REALLY paying attention. He actually understood what happened to Ganesha and how he was 'put together' again. He looked at me horrified, "Shib takur killed Ganesha? His OWN son?!?!?!?" and "Why did they kill that baby elephant? That's not fair! You shouldn't kill animals, right naa mamma?" and "Why did they use an animal's head?"

Sigh! I wonder what's going to happen when he discovers what a Shivalinga actually is!!

It took a lot of growing up and a LOT of reading to understand that these stories are pregnant with meaning, allegories and even euphemisms. I've just touched the tip of the ice-berg and I know I have a long way to go before I reach, if I ever do, true and absolute understanding.

My son has started his journey today. He is the religious sort, because that is how he has been taught. I haven't taught him to question yet, but it seems that he's started on his own and I am so glad. I'll be here to guide him as best as I can now, but as he grows older, I hope he looks for the answers himself. While I marvel at those with blind faith, the kind that the MIM has, I prefer to keep my eyes open myself. Maybe it makes me a bit cynical, but it makes my faith that much stronger, hard won and precious.

I hope he finds faith, even if he has to go through a period of doubt and questioning to get there, because ultimately, we all know what a little faith can do. And I'm not just talking about God, here.

The trek through our numerous myths and legends is an adventurous one, an enchanting one as well, and I hope both my boys are eager for it. I know I still am...

And speaking of little children and their questions, here are two funnies I'd like you to chuckle over :
1) A friend of mine was narrating the story of Ganesha to his niece. After the story, she looked at him wordlessly for a few minutes as she digested all that she had just learnt. "So Parvati got upset with Shiva because he walked into the bathroom when she was taking a bath and that's why she made a boy to guard their palace?" My friend answered in the affirmative to which she threw her googly, "Why didn't she just lock the door?"
2) A little child, after hearing about how Kamsa killed Devaki and Vasudev's children because the Heavens had prophesied that their eighth child would be the death of him, asked his mother, rather incredulously, "So why didn't he just keep them in separate cells?"

Children! They come up with some howlers, don't they? They also come up with some real toughies!


soin said...

they really should recognise uncle pai's work.. i mean many useless idiots are getting some award or the other.. this guy has literally given the myth stories to our

Anonymous said...

am curious, so how did you answer EO's question?

- richa

wordjunkie said...

LOL! Hey, I've had those last two questions too, all these years. Why DIDN'T he keep them in seperate cells? Wait, they'd have just brewed up some magic kheer anyway?
I share your rapture with mythology....and your paoin. We used to move a lot, and my dad gave away our collection of 50 odd ACKs too. My brother and I still whine about it.:)
Great post, the kind I will be returning to read several times over.

wordjunkie said...

BTW, saw a news article today, of a new ACK series aimed at younger kids, probably 8 and under. I'm thrilled already.And agree with you, Soin, Uncle Pai has done something amazing here.

Annie said...

I always found mythology really interesting ... but dont know much about Hindu mythology...

I was interested and i tried to google it, but I just can't seem to find a starting point. As if you are reading about lets say God xyz, it will have hundred referances, of events or people or gods i wouldnt know of, and I would not really be able to understand.

You know how montheistic religions are, especially Islam. The idea of God having any characteristic remotely human is considered blasphamous. So the little bit of hindy mythology, and stories of Krishna and Radha I heard I was able to guess that they must not be taken literally to understand the essense of them .. but thats just me shooting in the dark..

Please tell me a good website or a book (which hopefully i can find here. Having no hindus here can be a pain)...I would love to know more. :)

newmumontheblock said...

Hi,first time here, very interesting post. How do answer all those questions btw? :)

Mama - Mia said...

ah yes! it takes a long time to cross over from terribly logical questions, to just faith to understanding the undercurrents of mythology!

my way has always been reading it with a pinch of salt and lot of interest.

and ditto with you on Ramayana. tyhat said you MUST watch this movie called Sita sings the blues. its available on internet. or you can find it on M's blog as well.

brilliant stuff about how Sita's still exist! :)



Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

@ soin: I am with you! He really should have gotten the Sahitya Award or something by now! But this is India, my friend, where deserving people are often over-looked. But then, if Obama can be considered for the Nobel, then what is left to say?

@ happyfeet: Well, I didn't make a production out of it and tried to downplay the gore. I said Shiva didn't Know that Ganesha was His Son and because His Trishul was so powerful, it couldn't put back what it had taken They needed another head. And if not the elephant's head, then where would the Adorable Ganesha that we all know and love, be? I think it made sense to him, because he sat back and thought about it and didn't ask me anything else. Phew!

@ WJ: Aaah! Sister of my heart! Oh avid ACK lover, thank you for your kind words :)

@ Annie: Mythology is so interesting if for nothing else but the kind of fantasy trips and imagination that they inspire. I would really suggest reading some Amar Chitra Katha comics. They are beautifully illustrated and delightful to read. As for the Mahabharatha, try a consice, abridged vesrion first...see if you like it. Come back to me if you want to discuss anything, I'd be only too happy!

@ Hey newmum! Thanks for dropping by! Please see my answer to 'happyfeet' above. I hope that helps!

@ Namesake: Yes! I've heard many good things about this flick. Simply must watch it! Thanks for reminding me :)

The Ketchup Girl said...

So magic kheer could get three queens pregnant, huh? Wow! Sure takes all the fun out of baby-making!
muahahahahahahhha!!! this post totally rocked m4. It resonated each and every little awe and confusion that cptivated me as a child and it still does. mahabharata never fails to awe, and never fails to make my blood boil, esp over some feminist and justic issues :D.
Mishmash still hasn;t questioned me- not yet. when she does, i know who to ping !