Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Husband's Views On Karvachauth

Today is the day of Indian, or should I say, Hindu festival of Karvachauth, much popularized by Bollywood. Initially a festival of Northern India, now it is widely celebrated. The festival is primarily of a day of fasting, observed by married women, praying for the long life of their husbands. As is the practice, the festival is marked by severe criticism every year by over-jealous atheists, fanatic feminists and bigoted secularist, who claim that the festival is patriarchal, regressive and anti-woman. If one considers those rants to be true, one would believe that there is huge amount of physical and emotional trauma that womenfolk are subjected to, in order to get them around to fast on the day.  However, if one were to visit any of the markets in Delhi, the scenario is quite contrary. You will find happy, joyous women on the streets of Delhi, excitedly visiting beauty parlors, with their husbands dragged themselves behind them, holding the kids as wife gets Mehandi to her hands- docile, bored, humbled and grateful at being granted additional lease of life by virtue of their wives abandoning food for a day. It, by any measure, is not a patriarchal event, it is a women’s festival, by the women, of the women.

            There are Twitter handles, strangely, of women, downright abusive to women observing the fast. Those are mostly the people who have truly understood what Voltaire wrote about Hindus as being so soft that they are almost incapable of defending themselves. The tradition of Hindu men and women makes a good podium for them to trample and stand over, in order to seem intellectually taller. An RJ on the new ‘love’ radio FM channel, 104.6 was running interview of random people who on air, were telling how it is impossible for them to stay hungry for love. Instead, RJ Jassi suggested how they were willing to undertake much higher degrees of sacrifices for love than staying hungry. She contended that those people on air were ready to undertake ‘severe’ sacrifices like one guy who agrees to accept a pet, if his girlfriend wants, another girl agrees to ‘accommodate’ her in-laws, if her man wanted her. All for love. I felt so glad that I come from another generation.

This is a generation that is so self-centered and incapable of any sense of gratitude. Any half-educated man and woman would pity the idea of sacrifice that these cosmopolitan boys and girls hold. Their idea of poetry is Archies cards and their idea of sacrifice is accommodating a pet animal. It is sad and depressing. As we go about killing faith, killing tradition, killing the spirit of India, we are further encouraging the decline of human sensitivity in our society. It is not about religion. Karvachauth is a day of fasting which symbolizes the year of sacrifices which builds marital relationships in India societies. It is this faith which makes divorces rare and continuity of relationship usual in our society. In some region, we have Teej, another we have Vad Savitiri, and in South, But Savitri. All these are based on stories which are not a part of Hindu scriptures. These all are based on the stories told from generation to generation, or folklores. These are celebrations which are the adopted by generations of Indians who find faith in them. It is absurdity to think that by negating such festivals you are coming out as a brave, progressive intellectual.

Furthermore, KarwaChauth is not Vedic, nor is it in Shastras. It is something of a thing of the people. It is a day of fun and frolic for women. Almost all married men I know, would rather if their wives did not keep this fast. It is essentially a woman affair, not patriarchal as people suggest. It is not the fast itself which is a sacrifice. It is a symbol and celebration of sacrifice, it is the representation of a faith.

   Every relationship is built up over sacrifices. Every relation infringes on individual space. Every relation, therefore, is a conscious decision to forego that individual autonomy, for a relation which is dearer to us, than our freedom. Every relation is the chain we chose. It is not only snobbish, it is hypocritical and annoying to find faults and make fun of other people’s faith. Poets have celebrated sacrifice in love and we always appreciated it. The same people who go and watch and even claim weeping to prove their metro-sexuality during Shakespearean tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, question the faith of observing women. Some are even abusive to the women who observe Karvachauth. This is worst kind of hypocrisy and worst example of accommodating diverse faith.

 It is not about the day. For me, it isn’t a day of sacrifice of food ending with sighting of moon (a bit similar to around fortnight of abstinence, a few days earlier which the progressive liberals would not dare to laugh at for the fear of backlash). It is remembering the sweaty, dusty summer day in 1994 when my wife now, held my palms hesitatingly for the first time, and as we, worriedly conceded our feelings to each other, from two different sides of social divide, and decided to sacrifice all we had and all we were, for being together; It is a remembrance of beginning of a life, in an unfeeling metropolis, thrown out of our respective homes; it is a homage of the sacrifice which she made as she walked into a home, which resembled anything but- a damp room, with a bed on the floor in an almost slum-like area of Delhi, at the beginning of the century. It is a homage to the sacrifices of the woman who sat alone in the year 2000, in the hospital that resembled death with its white, sanitized building, as her 28 year old husband struggled for life in the ICU after a terrible episode of heart attack, hastened probably by familial abandonment and too much of nicotine. It is for the woman who would ride crowded DTC buses to her office, while her husband waited to recover and get back to job. It is not a homage to the husband, it is a homage to the wife, to the steel-willed woman who held him up and years later handed him a soft pink Jasmine which was to grown into another woman someday. My wife doesn’t read blogs on internet, and possibly doesn’t have the time to vet the views of rebellious, shrill feminists.

She is a woman of her own mind, a feisty woman as they say, and we argue and we fight. But she is also the biblical woman who was made out of the spine of Adam and I am proud to say that she is my spine, she is the starch of my soul, which keeps my soul in shape. I had almost decided not to post it, but then I am posting this, in view of all the bile that is flowing degrading women who are observing this fast. I stand by my wife as she celebrates Karva Chauth and I will stand by her when she decides not to. I think it is absolutely unfair to laugh, at her faith, to denounce it and to not be proud of it. I might be making fun of her, but that is about me, this fast is about her. Karvachauth is about women, it is not about the men at all. We, men are accidental beneficiary, a benefit which could well be all fictitious. About whether there is any truth to the fact to the faith that it extends the husband’s life; well it is only as true as the Santa Claus of the Christmas, which is about to follow, and whose arrival from North Pole every mall in Delhi will celebrate, which every dissenting diva of Delhi will visit.

It is not about religion, you foolish intellectuals. It is about love. I only hope you had little faith. Not as much as me, but just a little to get on with your little lives. And I shall end this post with outstanding lines by John Keats:

“I have been astonished that men could die martyrs
for their religion--
I have shuddered at it,
I shudder no more.
I could be martyred for my religion.
Love is my religion
and I could die for that.
I could die for you.
My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet.”   

Karva Chauth is about such love. Hope people could understand. In the mean time, I stand by women who observe Karva Chauth and I stand with the women who don't, of their own volition.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

About Ramayana and Its Hero- Valmiki

About a fortnight back, I had picked up Valmiki Ramayan from the bookstore, primarily to read it to my daughter. That the weekend was to be followed by Dusshera and Valmiki Jayanti was not on my mind. Valmiki Ramayan is to my mind a great work of Indian Literature. It is the first big book I had ever read, sometime when I was in class IVth. It is considered to be first epic in the human history, first poetic story.

            The book was written in the backdrop of early human history. I would rather presume that it reflects the time when Human civilization was in the initial stages of moving out from the forests, with one set of people still staying in the forest, still away from the concepts of reading and writing, farming like Vanars; another who moved into agricultural world, still close to nature and counting on the early discover of fire to keep themselves safe, being on the periphery of the forests; and the third which was arrogantly destroying the old ways of life, negating the nature, and building the big, huge infrastructure, and shiny capitals of greed. Valmiki’s Ramayan is reflective of those times and his. He wrote it in the times when society was not yet broken into faultlines, Varnas had not yet become rigid as castes. In those days, a wise man was a wise man, a writer, like Valmiki, was a writer and not a Dalit writer. Brahmin was the one who sought the truth and that was the reason, once Valmiki wrote the first couplet of human history, he, Ratnakar, most likely a non-brahmin, was designated a Mahrishi (The great sage) Valmiki, by none other than Narada, the priests and guru of the Gods. It would be dishonor to Valmiki to celebrate him as anything but a seeker of truth, and the first litterateur.

            Valmiki neither claims to be a prophet, nor he claims the story to be true. Ramayana and Ram as the Hero of the epic, became close to Hinduism and people started identifying it with Hinduism. I am not saying that we must, as Indians, as Hindus, not take pride in it. I am saying more than Ram, we must take pride in Ramayan, and the great writer who wrote it. This duality between literature and religious book while initially propagated  and popularized it, later it also harmed it in some ways. This literary fiction and its faults were used for Hindu bashing. The fault-lines of Story Ramayan, which is a great work of art, has been used to discredit Hindus, Characters criticized as if they were real people, guided by current social conventions and norms, by competing faiths who were amused by the extent of acceptance of Hinduism in the absence of any decree, any deception or any force.

            It is a great book of fiction, a long story which carries several sub-stories within, masterly stitched together to resemble reality. It does carry the thought and sensibility of Valmiki as a writer. I am not writing this essay as any alternate reading, a fashionable term used by non-believers to define faith for the faithful. I am writing this as a tribute to possibly the first writer in the history of humanity. Possibly at the time when we moved out of the caves, and some of us still were in caves, Vanars; one set moved away from the Forests and established great, though grotesque cities of gold as a testament to greed, like Suvarna-Lanka (Golden Lanka) of Raavan and another civilization, stayed close to them, settling on the periphery of the familiar forest life, choosing a farming life, cattle-rearing and the pursuit of knowledge- those early days when we moved from pictures on the walls of the caves to alphabets and words. In those early days, Valmiki wrote this and thereby established an illustrious  line of individual which will someday have Ved Vyas, Yeats, Dostoevsky, Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Rushdie, Marquez and Dinkar and Chetan Bhagat. It is not about religion and let us not make it so.

            Like writers of  the later days, Valmiki was progressive and way ahead of his time. His Ram represented his thoughts and ideas in what he did and even in what he did not do. The story represents a conflict between the truly intellectual society and a brash, bragging society- selfish, self-oriented, boisterous Rakshashas. Ram, the Hero for Valmiki was one woman man (ek- Patnivrata). No, he was not writing for his time. He was writing for the times ahead. His time was not for monogamy. Ram’s father, Raja Dashrath, had four wives. Valmiki won’t make or have his characters make noisy protests about it. He doesn’t make it a propaganda like some modern writers would. He would carefully, craftily bring in Ram as the new-age man, who is committed to his wife. He sets an example of love and family by setting up Ram as a model for monogamy, in the age of polygamy. This was possibly revolutionary for those times. The fact that polygamy still continued till such time that it was made illegal by law, also indicates that unlike say a Quran or Bible, while Ramayan of Valmiki was a reformative and progressive story, it was that and nothing more, a story with a message.

 You don’t get killed, or cursed or go to hell for not behaving as Ram. It is like the love of Gatsby is moving, inspiring, close to the heart, but it is not binding on any man to love a woman thus and to die protecting her honor thus.

            Like any self-respecting author, he subtly places himself in Ram, wherever he wants to make a point. He quickly makes a point and gets out of it. Today, progressive intellectuals write about the moral dishonesty of our society which places the stigma of rape on the woman. Currently a newspaper is running a series of essays by eminent personalities to counter this. Valmiki wrote Ahalya Udhhar (the Redemption of Ahalya by Ram) thousands of years back on the same lines. In brief, Ahalya was the wife of Sage Gautama. There are various accounts of what happened, one says, Indra raped her, another says, Indra deceived her, by transforming himself into Gautama, her much older husband, another version says that she realized it was Indra but much later, and was by then tempted by Indra’s praise to her beauty. Whichever version we take, Valmiki, takes no side. Whether it was her fault, her foolishness or her folly, Valmiki refuses to paint her as a “fallen” woman. He calls her divine and while she is cursed by her husband to stay hidden from the world or stay excommunicated from the unforgiving society at large (if we translate poetic description with a more realistic explanation), Valmiki guides Ram, Ram- who is a part of the Divine, who is God’s own incarnation, to her, smiles at her and accepts her hospitality. This marks her coming back to life, her being a part of larger world which had stopped taking note of her, as a woman, as a person. I know, many would pounce upon me, on this, citing how Ram had treated his own wife, Sita after he rescued her from Ravana’s kidnapping. I shall come to it, and try to explain.

            How Ram gets together Vanars, Hanuman and other, together and as we find in the Uttarkand, even make them stake-holders in governance, in his kingdom is also another progressive idea for those times when the society was just forming and frameworks were just getting established. He takes the Vanvasi with him, gets them the stake in real power and even considers at times, Hanuman, closer than Lakshman. 

Then there is the instance of Shabari. Shabari is a hunter’s daughter. Moved by the plight of animal’s being killed, she goes under the tutelage of Sage Matanga. The learned sage teaches her, and while leaving the mortal world tells her to wait for Ram. She waits for years for Ram, plucking berries and tasting them for Ram. When Ram arrives, she, daughter of a Nishadh, a hunter tribesman, offers those half-eaten berries to Ram. When Lakshman objects, Ram tells him that Shabari’s affection for him is beyond all the various forms of prayers which people offer him, for it is simple, true and bereft of any pretension. With one act of his, Ram, the Hero created by Valmiki, demolishes the caste and class barriers. The fact that thousands of years down, we still had untouchability and it even sneaked into a popular translation of Ramayan (Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas) also proves that Ramayana is not a Hindu religious text as many contend. If it were so, we would have ended both polygamy and untouchability thousands of years back. In Hinduism, even religious texts are not binding, at least not threateningly binding; this was only an Epic. 

There is a reason for trying to convert this story, this great work of literature, closely related to Hindu mythology, into Hindu religious text. It is thus identified with Hindu identity and lashed at, for the behavior of the characters in this story, which eventually evolves into Hindu bashing. This is something like blaming American Christians for the derogatory manner in which a character speaks about the black people in The Great Gatsby. It should rather go to the credit of such a great force of literature, and the inherent accommodation of contrary views in ancient Indian society,  that he could have such brilliant thoughts in such ancient an age. Raavana was a Brahmin and even his caste could not save him from the misfortune his arrogance brought to him. The Dalit scholars of today identify themselves with a Brahmin and oppose the one who supports the one worked with the tribals, smacks of their lack of understanding and their attempt at attacking a religion basis a work of fiction merely because it has characters from Hindu mythology.

            Another important point on which Ram is bashed and thereby, Hinduism is bashed, is the treatment meted to Sita by Ram, First as she has to walk through a funeral pyre after she is rescued from Raaavan’s captivity in Lanka, and later, when Ram abandons her on account of one of his citizen raising question about Sita’s chastity in long captivity by Raavan. Valmiki justifies the first incident in a political manner. Ram was to become the king on return to Ayodhya, and there was so much of bloodshed to rescue Sita. Ram wanted to prove that all that struggle, the loss of life, was not personal, it was for a larger good- liberation of people of Lanka from an oppressor, a tyrant. Being divine, Ram knew it well that Sita is chaste and pious and will not be hurt by the fire. In the time, when the King was the state and State was the King, through his protagonist, Valmiki tries to prove, that King is state as a patron, as a symbol of state, not as a person, as an individual, certainly not as a grieving husband. The king represents something bigger than his human form and cannot act on the basis of his human impulses and certainly cannot use the state machinery to fulfill his personal objectives. State resources must only be used for larger public good only. Through Ram, Valmiki establishes the democracy inherent in Hinduism, even in those days of Monarchy. This democratic aspect also comes into picture in the later abandonment of Sita by Ram, when she was pregnant. Many are up in arms against not only Ram, but Hindus for this act of injustice.

It was unjust. True. Even Sita could not understand this never ending expectation of people from its leader in a democratic world, and eventually refused to be a part of it. But then, Valmiki had established Ram as a model ruler. What could possibly his character in the story have done? Could Ram have left the state with Sita, and left the state to whom?. Where would that leave all the bloodshed and war and fighting? So many lives lost, for nothing? Eventually would a Ram leaving the responsibility of ruling a state which had set so many expectations on him as divine father, like an ordinary, family man, surrendering his lofty ideals for domestic duties be in line with the character created to present eventually a role model for governance- Ram Rajya? Would this have been in line with the character which Valmiki had so painstakingly developed? Can we imagine Lord Jim of Joseph Conrad, selling used-cars and flirting with girls? Sometimes the writer gets stuck with the characters he creates, in a way that there is no way out. Every writer knows that. The best of us will be able to disentangle ourselves with least damage to the character built with such labor and love. Valmiki does that. So when Sita is prays to the Mother Earth and is taken in, hounded by such repeated humiliation, He says even grieving Ram knows that she will be waiting for him in another world, away from the censorious eyes of people with narrow minds. Valmiki doesn’t justify those people who make comments on Sita, he is equally sad, as much as his hero. He sends a lesson to the society which derives voyeuristic pleasure imagining personal lives of their leaders. It is not a lesson for Ram, it is a lesson for the people of Ayodhya, who eventually curse Ram, after the gallant victory he had won for them, into becoming a tragic, Shakespearean hero, ending his days in a lonely, private purgatory, while performing his public duties towards the larger good.

Ramayan is not a story with happy ending. It was not meant to be. he first Shloka of Ramayan, considered to be first poetic words written in Human history, tells us where Valmiki wanted to go with the story:

मा निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः 
यत् क्रौंचमिथुनादेकम् अवधीः काममोहितम् ।।

Translation: Oh hunter, may you never get your honor restored for a thousand years,
For you have killed, an innocent bird, lost in love, mercilessly, without any tears.  

Having uttered these words, Valmiki discovered the beauty of written verse, and the first poetry dawned on human race in all its divinity. Valmiki then set on writing this great epic. It culminated out of sadness, after Valmiki saw two birds and the sudden killing of one of the two birds during their mating dance. He was moved and began writing Ramayana, it was meant to end in longing and sadness. He knew where his story was supposed to go, and that is where it goes.

Ram is good king, but he is not a happy king. He is a tragic hero who has sacrificed his love and family for a larger good. It is a sad story. Failure of Ram as a hero is the success of Valmiki as a writer. That is my opinion. It is a progressive story.  It is not a social essay, although like any good writer, Valmiki has placed progressive thoughts on monogamy, sharing of power, engagements with social pariahs, opposing stigmatization of women, casteism. 

Let us not judge him on religion and politics. Let us celebrate his writing and poetry and let us celebrate the society in which innovative thoughts were celebrated for thousands of years while the world about us was still settling the arguments through stoning and beheading. But it is not a religious work. If it has any connection with religion, it was about the direction an enlightened, emancipated, intellectual mind wanted it to go. I am not worthy enough to review the first epic of human history, nor intellectual enough to offer alternate reading. I offer this as my understanding and interpretation and as the tribute to the Grand Priest of  Poetry, Mahrishi Valmiki.   

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man- James Joyce- Book Review

Some books are an act of education; they cannot be read in haste, cannot be understood in one read. James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man gives one such feeling.

It is a coming of age story of Stephen Dedalus. Nothing extraordinary about that. But then there a rich, slowly flowing lost river of philosophy which moves beneath the surface, turning an ordinary story of a boy growing up, encountering questions about faith, religion and sex, into an exceptional, extraordinary and engaging story. The story moves along the timeline, much in the manner of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, where the writer is seemingly a passive narrator. Further, while this book is more of a philosophical essay wrapped around a story, Ms. Woolf’s book, on the other hand, is rather a Story primarily, with a philosophical touch. This book is blatantly philosophical, dwelling into the dangerous territory of religion and how a growing mind looks at God. It begins with his school, where young Stephen, like any other young kid is lost and unsure about most of the things about him and his own place with reference to the world around him.

The boy, Stephen Dedalus, a catholic, is a seeker of truth. The famous dictum of Socrates- A life unexamined is not worth living- notwithstanding, most of us pass through life in something of a drunken stupor. Some do however, ask question, and seek answers; the doubters, the naysayers. It is surely not an easy life. A philosopher like Socrates leaves us with the dictums and aphorisms, while a novelist like Joyce, wraps it into a delectable story of Stephen Dedalus. He is hounded by his question. It begins with child-like curiosity, and it is endearing, but his intent is not to establish the innocence of the child or to create empathy the Maugham did so masterfully in Of Human Bondage, where your heart breaks at the plight of Phillips as a little boy with club-foot in the school. Mr. Joyce is more in love with the theme then the characters which carry the theme. The writer shows such little love for the character that it becomes very difficult for the reader to be in love with them, even when you identify with them. Also, there is much little attention given to any other character apart from the main protagonist.  This is not to say that the writing is dry and drab. Rather, it is slow-winding, patience and poetic. That is why I love it, Hemingway always leaves me panting and gasping for breath with quick, short, sentences, one sentence almost chasing another. For me, it is Conrad, Woolf, Dostoevsky, where sentences float like Jasmines floating, rather levitating in slow, calm summer breeze. Mr. Joyce is up to my pace, diligently working on each sentence more like a poet than a prose writer. A great deal of action happens in the mind of Stephen, and interesting observations come our way, reminded me much of my own childhood thoughts about religion and God, always fraught with doubts. 

Look at this beautiful paragraph from child Stephen’s thought-
He tried to thing what a big thought that must be (universe), but he could only think of God. God was God’s name just as his name was Stephen. Dieu was the French for God and that was God’s name too; and when anyone prayed to God and said Dieu then God knew at once that it was a French person that was praying. But, though there were different names for God in all different languages in the world and God understood what all the people who prayed said in different languages, still God remained always the same God and God’s real name was God.

Thus beautifully is revealed the innocent mind of a child who is so trusting, so faithful and yet not a bigot or a fanatic. The boy has a mind which asks questions and is all set to eventually rebel, throwing away a career in religion and opting for be an Artist instead. Are the two different? Isn’t all art a search of truth? Isn’t all art another form of religion, another system of spirituality? Stephen has all the making of a writer. He is a perennial doubter, he has the capability to put himself outside the world, in which he himself is a player and look at it from a different vantage point, even as a very young man. See how beautifully Mr. Joyce establishes this as he writes-   ..they passed a jovial array of shops lit up and adorned for Christmas his mood of embittered silence did not leave him. The causes of his embitterment were many, remote or near. He was angry with himself for being young and prey of restless foolish impulses, angry also with the change of fortune which was reshaping the world about him into a vision of squalor and insincerity. Yet his anger lent nothing to the vision. He chronicled with patience what he saw, detaching himself from it and tasting its mortifying flavor in secret.

We find here a child who has an intellectually enlightened mind and a writer who is in his formative days. He loves Byron and would not abandon his hero in the face of physical abuse. Oh, this innocent love for written word is so charming. Sadly, few have patience and affection for such words in today’s world. I am one old-fashioned word-worshipper and I loved when Joyce beautifully explains the restlessness of Stephen as a young man wandering across the infamous streets to sin, as he felt some dark presence moving irresistibly upon him from the darkness, a presence subtle and murmurous as a flood filling him wholly with itself. Gorgeous prose there. I read an excerpt of One India Girl shared by someone on Twitter- a blatantly explicit scene-  which doesn’t charm, doesn’t even attempt to titillate; rather which leaves one’s senses numb, and mind confused as to why book like that is not categorized as adult book. In contrast, I would beg one attention to an intimate scene between young Stephen and a Prostitute and how the affair is depicted here,

With a sudden movement she bowed his head and joined her lips to his and he read the meaning of her movements in her frank uplifted eyes. It was too much for him. He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips. They pressed upon his brain as though they were the vehicle of a vague speech; and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound and odour.

I love such prose, such respect of words. If some would think that actions are not as poetic as represented in these words, I would suggest they ought to be. I have an ancient soul in me and I love such writing as against the blatant pornographically explicit writing passing off as mainstream literature today. If such writings is not widely accepted by people today, it shatters my optimism in the current and future generations. Words is what separates humans from other animals and we must preserve our respect for words. I do hope that if exposed to it, people will like it.

            While the writings of Joyce, resemble closely to modernist writings of Ms. Woolf (latter found Joyce bore, sigh! Both wrote in similar modernistic style and hold your heart, both were born in the same year (1882) and both died in the same year (1941)) still in terms of the narrative that flows through the mind of the protagonist, it, in a way, also resembles Dostoevsky, whose stories grow in the minds of characters. Dostoevsky however goes much deeper into the minds of his characters- the feelings, the dilemmas, the agonie, while Mr. Joyce hovers a bit on the higher plane- at philosophical levels. That said, and also considering his odd design in terms of writing very unconventionally, for instance, Mr. Joyce does away with the inverted commas, the book makes an important reading for anyone who loves literature, for the sheer force of ideas which are packed in this simple story.  This is much easier to read, however, than, Ms. Woolf’s work, say for instance, The Waves (Read review here) but is also less engaging and charming than Ms. Woolf’s work. HG Wells, no great lover of Joyce, wrote in his early review of this book (March 7th, 1917, read New Atlantic Review here), 
Coarse, unfamiliar words are scattered about the book unpleasantly, but he adds, …even upon this unsavory aspect of Swift and himself, Mr. Joyce is suddenly illuminating. .. 

The technique is fresh and new (or was at least, in 1917), writs Wells,… Mr. Joyce is bold experimentalist with paragraph and punctuations…He uses no inverted commas to mark the speech… The technique is startling but on the whole it succeeds..writes HG Wells. Read it for it carries a freshness of experience in terms of style and content. Read it if you love words exquisitely laid down adorn with some serious philosophy on questions of life, art and religion.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

About Mahakali- The Eternal Mother

The strongest aspect of a woman, uncontested, unwinnable for a man is motherhood. Kali is the eternal, divine mother. She represents the silent darkness of the time when nothing was there, and from there, from darkness, from nothingness, she shaped life. She is every woman, every mother, which stands in darkness, so much so that she herself becomes darkness (Kali~ Darkness) and creates life, beholds life, births life and nourishes life. The light emerges from the darkness, and the colors rise from the lack of colors. She is the dark womb from where the feeble light of human life takes first breath. She is the consort of Mahakaal (Kaal-Death), Shiva- The lord of death, Mahakali. She is death. Hinduism celebrates life as well as death. Death being the moment, where we clean our slates and start afresh. Therefore, both death as well as life are intermingled, interconnected and interchangeable in their meaning. Death can be looked at as the end of life; can also be looked at as the beginning of another.

Shiva is absolute, eternal and the truth impersonated. Truth without strength is tame, it is empty rhetoric. Shakti (Power, Energy) is what renders Shiva (stands for conscience) a meaning. Shakti is His consort, his complementing force. when He is happy, at peace, she is Parvati- a calm permanency in His nomadic existence, representing the home; when He is young, in search of love, Shakti is Shailputri- his answer to his yearning, his passion, his love; and when He is doing His duty as the Sanharak- The Divine destroyer- Mahakaal, Shakti is Mahakali. There He is the father, the one who is easily infuriated, the Restorative force, the meditating sage sitting at the pinnacle of entropical dis-balance, guiding the universe into its inevitable decline into disorder, from where new world would emerge. Mahakali  is the divine mother, carrying all the fury of Her divine companion, including the Third Eye, which can see the hidden truth and which can destroy the falsehood at the same time. for the larger good of the world. Shiva and Shakti, Mahakaal and Mahakali together represent the violent force of retribution, the revenge of the meek, those who cannot fight for themselves. They reside in them, they reside in us. They are two but one. Kaal is also time and as master of the time, as time itself, they are eternal.

Shiva is the eternal man, the highest form of manhood and Shakti is the highest female form and at their best, they merge and both gender as well as individuality is irrelevant. Kali is not a woman, as much as Mahakal is not a man. They are both and They are neither. Kali is the primal force of womanhood. She kills to protect life. Kali, Durga, Pravati and Shailputri are different women and are the manifestations of same woman. They all, not one, breathe in all women. Worship of Kali is the worship of that eternal fountainhead of life, eternal woman form, which lives in all women today, which lived in all women always. Woman need to only search within to find the Devi she needs to become. She is not in conflict with man, she complements him. She takes his trident when she fights and He takes her Shakti or power, when He fights. MahaKali is invoked by Durga. Durga, is a great warrior, but she is bound by the social mores, she is still social, within the society. Faced with Rakthbeej, the hidden enemy, who creates as many identities as many drops of blood falls on the ground. They are hidden, but they rise as one head of Rakhtbeej is cut and blood spils on the ground. Mahakali is then invoked. Mahakali is Shakti, She is Durga, which is devoid of societal bondage . She will not dress up as a tradition woman. She is a woman with a purpose and Her purpose is to kill, in order to protect her children. She lives on the fringe of social norms, or rather she keeps the nuances of societal living at a distance from her inherent free and furious spirit. That is how she is depicted, she dresses up like Shiva, anger and violence has darkened her skin. And she doesn't care about it. 

Hindu mythology is ripe with symbolism. Kali has four hands, one hand holds the sword and another a severed head. Head is old wisdom, pre-conceived notions, conventions, traditions, and ego in holding on to them. It is severed. It will come back in many forms, whenever you challenge the set order. Rakhtbeej will rise from unknown quarters. Wear a dark complexion, your attitude is your dress. You carry an empty skull-head which will hold the blood of Rakthbeej- representing the insults, the conspiracies so it does not touch the earth and takes a new life. (As per Legend, rakthbeej had a boon that every drop of his blood will create one more Rakhtbeej). Challenge the status-quo, challenge it all. What cannot be destroyed, cannot grow. In my opinion, this bias for change is the reason that Hinduism has survived thus far in face of all hostilities and not being expansionist political religion. Kali represents it. However, Kali is not a woman to full of herself to acknowledge the respect for order. She in the grip of the worst of her fury, which threatens to destroy the universe to a stage of no reversal, acknowledges love, acknowledges respect for her counter-part. She is not a woman, emancipated as She were, to cherish trampling over her man. She stops, She- the unstoppable, stops when she steps on Shiva. (Legend says, when having killed Raktbeej, she lost her track and went on destroying all that came along the way, Shiva was called on to stop her. Shiva, the Primal God, the God of the Gods- Mahadev, lied down in her path. And when she stepped on him, she realized how her own belief in herself, her emancipation, her violence rode on her head, and ashamed of herself, her tongue out of her mouth, she stopped). In today’s world of fanatic feminism, Mahakali, tells us the story of emancipated womanhood and of mutual respect. It depicts a world where Man and Woman compliments each other and are not at war with one another. Maa Kali is the way to Mahakal- The eternal Father, the One who was at the Beginning and The One who shall be the end. Only, there is no beginning, nor is there an end.