Friday, February 13, 2009

Of Goddesses and Boons

So it has been two weeks since ABR aka GS has joined my life...and he has adjusted well to his eccentric household....any quirks on his part are excused by his arriving before Estimated Time of Arrival...(his due date was Feb 22, moved to Feb 12, 13 and 14 to schedule a C-section appointment that worked for everyone...meanwhile my liver gave up in this race against time so his birthday is Jan 31)....which is very surprising considering in South Asia even the stork decides to 'have a late landing' two hours past the ETA....sorry jee aap kee flight delayed hai....anyways this gives me a breather from the crazy comparision stakes as everything is brushed under, " officialy he should have been swimming in aminoitic fluid right now." so please stop worrying about his size, coloring, weight, poop.

I have realised that even though my life has changed drastically, some things will never change...I will still wake up teary eyed after another nightmare about Swat and all that plagues my part of the world...and even as I plunge elbows deep in pamper duty, I will have thoughts of pink chaddis keeping me bemused.

And in the past fortnight the images of two Goddesses have kept a silent vigil by my side.

One has been Saraswati... followers of this blog would have known of my picking up a mobile of her on a trip to Varanasi during the Phd years...I have found her an enigmatic figure in a world of docile Sitas and rotund Laxmis...and the original free spirit creating her own identity, she is Vac Devi (the goddess of speech) in a world where little girls are still taught to be seen not heard, she shuns material wealth and embraces knowledge, cherishing the book and all that is Divine. So like a guardian angel she would be suspended over my computer table and was solace in the long days when even I would wonder " if everything would turn all right", and descended in the quick sand of ' what ifs'.
And touch wood I realised that all my rebellions and turning the life cycle inside out were not in my other 'divine' Shahrukh Khan assures us 'kehte hai ki filmon ki tarah hamari zindagi mein bhi end tak sab theek hee ho jaata hai..happys endings...' and the sweetest gift and ' sign' of all was ABR arriving on Saraswati Puja day, yup, it is as she gave me a thumbs up and whispered in my ear us sistahs should stick together and show those Martha Stewart wannabes that things can work out for us exiles as well.

And the other Goddess has been Draupadi, or the Draupadi/Dopdi from Mahsveta Pramod Mutalik worries about 'core issues of Indian culture' and bullies women in public spaces, I want to remind you of Dopdi and her power to 'invert' and return the gaze.

The following is Gayatri Spivak's translation from the Bengali of Devi's Draupadi...I would urge you to go and read the full short story, powerful stuff, and perhaps some inspiration as the crazies descend on all us agnostics.

Then morning comes.
Then Draupadi Mejhen is brought to the tent and thrown on the straw. Her piece of cloth is thrown over her body.
Then, after breakfast, after reading the newspaper and sending the radio message “Draupadi Mejhen apprehended,” etc., Draupadi Mejhen is ordered brought in.
Suddenly there is trouble.
Draupadi sits up as soon as she hears “Move!” and asks, Where do you want me to go?
To the Burra Sahib’s tent.
Where is the tent?
Over there.
Draupadi fixes her red eyes on the tent. Says, Come, I’ll go.

The guard pushes the water pot forward.
Draupadi stands up. She pours the water down on the ground. Tears her piece of cloth with her teeth. Seeing such strange behavior, the guard says, She’s gone crazy, and runs for orders. He can lead the prisoner out but doesn’t know what to do if the prisoner behaves incomprehensibly. So he goes to ask his superior.

The commotion is as if the alarm had sounded in a prison. Senanayak walks out surprised and sees Draupadi naked, walking toward him in the bright sunlight with her head high. The nervous guards trail behind.
What is this? He is about to cry, but stops.
Draupadi stands before him, naked. Thigh and pubic hair matted with dry blood. Two breasts, two wounds.

What is this? He is about to bark.
Draupadi comes closer. Stands with her hand on her hip, laughs and says, The object of your search, Dopdi Mejhen. You asked them to make me up, don’t you want to see how they made me?

Where are her clothes?
Won’t put them on, sir. Tearing them.

Draupadi’s black body comes even closer. Draupadi shakes with an indomitable laughter that Senanayak simply cannot understand. Her ravaged lips bleed as she beings laughing. Draupadi wipes the blood on her palm and says in a voice that is as terrifying, sky splitting, and sharp as her ululation, What’s the use of clothes? You can strip me, but how can you clothe me again? Are you a man?

She looks around and chooses the front of Senanayak’s white bush shirt to spit a bloody gob at and says, There isn’t a man here that I should be ashamed. I will not let you put my cloth on me. What more can you do? Come on, counter me – come on, counter me -?

Draupadi pushes Senanayak with her two mangled breasts, and for the first time Senanayak is afraid to stand before an unarmed target, terribly afraid.


  1. Awwwwww. congratulations to you and yours on the birth of you bundle of joy. The pictures are precious!


  2. Third time I'm reading this amazing post.
    I've loved Mahashweta Devi's writing. The excerpt you've quoted is really powerful.
    I love the Saraswati mobile:)


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