Thursday, November 25, 2010

O Shiva! O Shiva!

You’ve come from the house of Shiva
I know,
But you're not Parvati, the goddess.
I never saw a halo around your head
And I think,
You performed no miracles, either.
To say that you could have been his daughter
Would mean I know no mythology,
Or have no qualms about turning it upside down.   
The biographers of Shiva boldly state,
He had no daughter
That he ever knew of. 
So who are you?
Are you the young, naïve girl
Who insisted upon visiting Daksha, her father, 
Against the instructions of her husband? 
The one who had to go through
The unbearable agony,
Humiliation and shame,   
All unwelcome visitors often live through.  
Are you the one who cowered in shame,
Listening to Daksha, your father,
Shout imprecations upon your husband?
Just because he wasn’t around.  
Why didn’t you quiz your father, then, 
About his surreal notions of culture?                                                                    
Why didn’t you turn the tables on him,
‘So what if I married Shiva of my own accord,
Why do you protest his long, matted hair?
His ash-smeared body, his poisonous snakes?
Why do you launch into this colonial diatribe
Against his tribal ways?’ 
Why couldn’t you throw the ball in his court,
‘I thought you were a gentleman.
When and how did you turn so rough and crude?
And how did you get to be so audaciously arrogant?’ 
Your father’s tongue-lashing had left you stunned.  
Was it the suddenness of his assault?   
Or the aggression of his repulsive, boorish ways,
That had really left you so completely dazed?
Was it a little girl’s timidity, you’d grown up with?  
Or a refusal of a stubborn child to raise her voice?   
Did you lose your nerve at the last minute, the way some women do?
Or were you tiptoeing to reach your father’s ears,
Pecking his approval as you always do?
Perhaps, you’d more faith in your father’s munificence
And not so much in your husband’s wisdom, 
Perhaps, you’d internalized your husband’s rage
Or was it just an overpowering suicidal instinct?
Whatever it was,  
Why did you set yourself aflame?  
Why did you reduce yourself to ashes? 
Crippling the entire womanhood,  
You chose a softer option,
Taking your life in your hands,
You went away.  
Why didn’t you think of millions of daughters you have,
Who continue to burn in the flames?  
Why didn’t you think of them?
What will they do when the moment comes?
Who will they turn to in their own distress? 
Each time, they raise their hands to pray?
Won’t they weaken in their resolve the way you did?
How will they feel inspired by someone,
Who lost faith in her own powers? 
Who failed to protect her honour and dignity? 
O Shiva! O Shiva!
You were not slighted by your father,
Your own cowardice it was that ruined it all for you,       
And for all those who could have been saved,
No, you certainly have no place in the pantheon,   
Oh, you must have been Shiva’s concubine! 

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