Monday, 17 October 2016

In search of Her identity...

This column was first published in Feministaa.


The social media has come to become a platform of endless provocations. Like the one that floated up on my newsfeed as I was hurriedly dressing up for the coveted Ashtami’s Pushpanjali this Durga Puja. A friend has started a question on his timeline, crafted cleverly to pinch and squeeze a few points out of people who’d stumble by it. It is a patriarchal conspiracy to pose Durga as The Mother, while really She is the Warrior - he stated. It is a patriarchal conspiracy and a trap, entrapped in the veil of religious piousness.


I tried to resist the provocation, until I could no longer. The stream of replies it brought along floated up my newsfeed recurrently. The faces are acquainted, and the replies they brought seemed much predictable. There were few “feminist” entries who agreed and added flesh to the argument, and then there were few “sociologist” insights which said that Durga being celebrated as the Goddess Annapurna, one who feeds a million, goes with the image of Motherhood and kindness. One retorted, the other countered, the third came and shared the post, and so moved on the caravan of Durga’s identity. And for all I know, it started a post in me. An opinion. A column. This!


But before that, first. Let’s accept this, that Durga is indeed a matter of paradox. A trident in hand, its end stabbed against the chest of Mahishahura the demon God, blood oozing out. A smile of Her face, nevertheless, as she looks upon the worshippers and keep her oher hand up in blessing, a pious lotus stuck against her dainty fingers. On Her sides, her children. One who stands for prosperity, and another who stands for Kindness. One for Education and Talent, and another, blissfully handsome. Her husband’s picture in the wallet. I mean, on the backdrop, just a brief photo in a frame. For all you know, Durga Puja the way I’ve personally loved to believe is a story of homecoming of a married daughter. The usual kind, for few days in a year, just like you. And me.




Yes, that really is what it is – you know? She is much like you. She is much like me. She is much like any one of us, or all of us put together.


Much unlike another Hindu Goddess. Unlike Kali who is straight out of the war-field, wearing a garland made of cut-off heads of demons. Beat that! Unlike Lakshmi, who needs to be pleased so that She in return showers back material returns upon you. Unlike Saraswati who, in a Bengali family much, is what even the staunch atheists swear by if it is just a day before the exam in school. Durga is not any of them, mind you! And yet, she is each one of them, and more.


You rather see Durga in shape of an identity crisis. Her many incarnations bunched into one representation. She arrives with her kids, those who don’t have much to do exactly with the pose that she assumes at the center, as even if mythology is to be believed, they are but her kids from another incarnation and not the one who killed the demon. She is the daughter who came home after long, to visit her mother Menoka and her father Humalaya, all the way from Kailash where she stays with her husband, the mightly Shiva. And yet again, she is Uma - the one who had thrown herself to the fire when, after coming home, she had overheard rumours about the husband’s drinking habits. And then raging, Shiva had arrived, bringing upon Tandava - the dance of doom.


But then, Durga is a standalone. Nobody’s wife, nobody’s mother, nobody’s daughter. She is The Woman. The woman, who can both kill with her charm and give life in blissful kindness. In some colloquial variations, she is then believed to be a beloved to Mahishahura, the demon god, and to kill him the becomes a pact of honour killing.


You cannot but note, She is your feminist idol. Emancipated, and perhaps more than that – for she not only has more power over the male gods put together but even plays the damsel in rescue.


And you ask what she stands for, really?


What do you stand for, pray? A mother at home packing your kid’s lunch for school, or the business manager making the powerpoint pitch to sell the company’s product in the next two hours. The daughter who makes that hasty call to the arents back in the hometown in between meetings, or the wife who plans out a hasty dinner plan to surprise the husband? The loser full of regrets that pour over pillows in dark of the nights, or a winner full of accomplishments that line up proudly upon her resume? The cruel, or the kind? The angry or the blissful? Who are you, pray?


Who is the real person?


And then you come home to Her, too.


She is neither the Mother, alone, nor the Warrior. She is neither the dutiful wife, nor the loving daughter, and perhaps not the ashamed lover too. And yet, she is all of them.


And she is just like you, and just like me.


What is it about Life, at all, of not about a whole lot of identity crisis fist fighting their way through the journey? What is it about Durga, pray?