No mythical bird,
No trace in Greek legends,
An eagle, not of Arabia.
Her beak sealed, legs tied,
Wings broken,eyes pierced,
Towards the pyre, a clap of wings.
A nimbus invisible, illuminating,
She, a sapphire and Sun.
Resurrected,another clap of wings.
Beak unsealed, legs freed,
Blue eyes igniting Him.
Exceptional she, like a Peacock
Danced with a leg, time, the ONLY witness!
_ I swear, Billy makes my eyes well up every time I think of him.
Published in 1971, Arun Joshi’s The Strange Case of Billy Biswas is worth your time, soul and conscious. Having read it for the fifth time and feeling Billy, feeling for Billy very often without further reading, let me confess, Billy is one of the rarest character created ever by a novelist. Few in-completions in the novel, yes, but the character of the protagonist,Billy is more or less complete. Created then, it has all the quint essentials of the modern century’s most discussed, thought about subjects . Racism, Romance, Humour, Friendship, Politics, all in one plus one of the few characters I have read who does justice to himself forgoing his family, his social network realising what actually he wanted to do, where exactly he belongs to.
Billy Biswas, the US based(Harlem, for reasons he explains) Anthropologist returns to his homeland in Central India having sensed his intuitions without letting anyone to intrude, without expecting anybody to understand him. Young and rich, he chooses to live a tribal life in the Saal forests, leaving behind his family, creating an impression of being killed by a Tiger. All he chased throughout was the meaning of things which he see through, hear through, clear and well-defined. There could be a question on his sense of moral responsibilities towards his wife and son, but as he himself explains to Romi, his friend, on questioning,
‘ But don’t you think you had responsibilities towards her, towards your son?’
‘ I have greater responsibilities towards my soul!’
The way he looked at the Whites of America, his own super rich Father who’s a supreme court judge, his wife Meena who’s after money, what friendship actually meant to him , his views on Justice and Politics are specimens of what we see around. Being one among the aristocratic, rich class of Delhi, his mind and soul always was with the ordinary, uncivilised tribals of central India. He dreamt different, thought different, dressed different, spoke and smiled different, acted different and hence became ‘Strange.’ The way Joshi explains Billy’s eyes and his grin, I swear again, anybody would fall for him. ‘Hello old chap,’ the way he greeted Romi remains at the tip of the reader’s tongue and later gets deposited into their minds as a fixed one.
The second half of the novel is sensational as the novelist explains the commotions surrounding Billy’s disappearance, how he reacts to the call from within, from Nature. Hair raising illustration of the Tribal woman, Bilasia who becomes Billy’s wife this life as she was in the previous, a lot of beliefs around superstitions, how Billy happens to meet Romi, the collector, in the collector’s bungalow, ten years after his disappearance, his justifications and explanations for his actions, the metamorphosis the Doctor Anthropologist undergoes, are wonderful illustrations to be remembered forever.
New definitions to the word friendship is sought towards the concluding chapters. Even after Billy asks Romi not to reveal about his presence to anybody including his very family, circumstances pull Romi to act otherwise and as Billy warned, what havoc it created with his life there! Billy’s father, with all his political influence tries to find Billy out through his civil servant friend, Romi, and Romi resists and hesitates. Soon things go beyond his control and the search for Billy Biswas turns to a man-hunt.
Bilasia’s questions to Romi and his answer less face haunts a true reader. The terrified face of Billy’s younger son and the intelligent, the shrewd face of Billy’s elder son with a hint that he would become like his father is a positive note before the novel ends. As Billy meets with the inevitable end, the emotional heart of the reader too floods up.
A character complete in almost all the senses, I often wonder about another possible end to the novel. Perhaps, that end could satisfy the soul of an ordinary reader, not the elite. Billy with his strangeness has become a part of my sensible thought. Hope he becomes a member of yours too, if you let… Have a read.
The surfing sound crashing the walls
of my turbulent mind roared quite silent.
The hollow of the wall thus seen,
Had a life within, breathing still
battling for its existence. The Sea God
violent and stormy mended its currents,
circle at the very heart, hitting my wall time and again.
Eroded, the thick walls of my mind,
merged in the salty sea of tears,
Aged further with the weight of ache.
Strong, stronger and the heavier
when weighed, will you calm down,
just not to let the world laugh?
South India’s temples unveil a lot of history for sure, they also unmask a lot of unheard, untold stories taking any devotee by surprise and stunned by the spectrum of their own little knowledge. They are enticing places anyone would love to visit . While the temple series continues, here is another Goddess temple, situated in Malappuram district of Kerala, Kadampuzha. One of the huge(within) temple structure one would witness, Goddess Parvathy is omnipresent in every atom of the ambience that she would appear right in front of your eyes whenever you fondly remember her.
What makes the temple different from other temples is the absence of an idol of the main deity. There’s a hole which is created by the mighty arrow of Lord Shiva which he shot in order to summon Ganga for quenching Parvathy’s thirst. Adi Shankara perceived it to be the source of immense power and hence advised not to have an idol. Only an arch like structure is kept on top and sometimes a shield for devotees’ reference. Shankaracharya built the temple according to Shastra, on the stone right in front of this he perceived the divine presence of Lord Shiva.Narasimha Moorthy, Sudarshan Chakra, Naaga Kanya and Shasta are worshipped at the temple.
The origin of the temple dates back to the Third Parva/Vana Parva of Mahabharata. As per Krishna’s advise Arjuna went to seek the knowledge of celestial missiles/ divine astras. In order to obtain Pashupathastra from his Lord Pashupati, Arjuna started severe penance at the foothills of Himalayas. Seeing the intensity of his penance, Lord Shiva and Parvathi wanted to test Arjuna’s loyalty. They transformed themselves into Kirata king and wife. Though Shiva was happy at his disciple’s intense devotion, he wanted to shed the ego away from Arjuna which otherwise his Lord knew would hinder him from attaining greatness by the possession of Pashupatastra.
Meanwhile, Mookasur, a demon was on his mission to kill Arjuna on the instructions of his master, Duryodhan. Disguising himself into a wild boar, he charged towards the meditating Arjuna. The warrior instinct in him took charge and in a fraction of second he opened his eyes to pierce the wild boar with his arrow through its mouth. The kirata king too let loose an arrow to kill the wild boar which pierced through its hindquarters. There arose an argument between the two mighty warriors whose arrow was the cause for the animal’s death. The kirata king acted annoyed and he started prodding Arjuna into a fight. Arjuna wanted to avoid fight with a silly man, but the kirata king went to the extent of abusing Arjuna’s brothers, mother, wife and also his Lord, Shiva. Arjuna now found it hard to restrain himself and a terrible fight ensued.
Parvathy, who was a silent spectator till now, started getting worried every passing moment looking at the ferocity of the fight. She ran to each to stop them foreseeing the end with one getting grievously hurt. She knew, if her Lord gets really angry, no force can withstand his wrath. When her efforts to dissuade Arjuna from the fight failed, she turned the arrows of Arjuna into flowers(jungle geranium). Bewildered though, Arjuna, the unmatched warrior, started shaping arrows of the flowers. Each flower, multiplied by thousands, within no time Shiva was completely covered with flowers. Arjuna then tried attacking his enemy with his bow, but that too was snatched away from him by the kirata king.
Without any weapons left, Arjuna started punching his enemy with his bare hands.But the kirata king flung him to a great height soon to come crashing down the earth. Arjuna finally realised that his enemy is no ordinary being and he was humbled. He understood what the wife of kiata king was trying to tell him. Filled with deep anguish and being remorseful he prostrated at the feet of his beloved Lord. The couple then bestowed Arjuna with boons and also with Pashupatastra after imparting its knowledge.
Before returning to Kailas, Parvathy requested for some water to quench her thirst. Shiva then shot an arrow to the earth to summon Ganga. Parvathy then requested her Lord that the place they were then to be known as her place where whatever boons will be granted to those who come beseeching with a pure heart. She also requested her Lord to make his presence felt in a stone before her. The same place when Shankaracharya, Goddess’s own son gave a definite shape, became the land of supreme devotion.
The main offering here is Muttarukkal(cut away the obstacles). The devotee gives a coconut after removing its husk to the priest with the devotee’s name and birth star in Malayalam. The priest in turn breaks the coconut in front of the deity. If the coconut breaks evenly it’s believed that the obstacle is cut and if it breaks unevenly, the devotee is asked to bring another and the process is repeated until it breaks evenly. Trust me, between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. the goddess has a feast of coconuts! I swear, stand before her with your mind devoid of all distractions, your wish is done!
Also free your mind from ego, be a child seeking knowledge, affection, love and care from its mother, the Universal Mother, who knows nothing but love her children, will definitely hold your little finger.
A good number of theists might have heard about Chottanikkara Goddess Temple, but nothing much about an equally powerful deity, Sri Kurumba Bhagavathy (Bhadrakali) of Kodungallur. This temple is situated in the vicinity of Kerala’s cultural capital, Thrissur(dist), to be precise Kodungallur, around 40 kilo meters away from Thrissur. One of the traditional temple structure winnowed by any sort of modernism, the temple’s attraction is the eight handed wood(jack fruit tree) carved, six feet high Goddess idol. Said to have placed next to the idol of Shiva by Parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the temple has other idols of Lord Ganesh and Veerabhadra placed around.
Harassed by the demon, Daaruka, Parasurama, who’s believed to have created Kerala, sought the help of Lord Shiva, who advised him to construct a shrine of Shakthi Devi. Following his advise, Parasurama installed the idol of the fierce Bhadrakali, who was believed to have killed Daaruka. To commemorate her victory over the demon, reinstalling the peace of the land, the temple celebrates the most famous Bharani Festival. The main attraction of the festival is the oracles of Goddess decked up in all red and heavy waist bell belts, thick anklets dancing in frenzied ecstasy, murmuring and chanting in a fit of wilderness.
According to another fable from mythology, the temple is an abode of Kannaki, the heroine of Ilango Adigal’s Chilapathikaram(the Tamil epic). While praying at this temple, Kannaki is believed to have merged with the idol, attaining moksha. The Chera King, Chenguttavan, moved by this, built a temple for Kannaki.
Another unique aspect connected with the temple is that, the rituals here are conducted under the instructions of the goddess herself. The five Sri Chakras installed by Adi Shankaracharya are said to be the source of the immense, mystical powers the temple possess. There are huge, equally old banyan trees surrounding the temple.
The incense of turmeric powder and vermilion(kumkum) awaits devotees at the very entrance itself. A curious mind though little scary creates a halo of strange thoughts in every single visitor of the temple. And when you return from Her abode, you feel you have won over your enemies.
Blind and furious
The wintry night today
echoes a rough sea.
She swayed with gusto
Spreading her inky,coal black hair
Her ebony gown
Lacquered silver gloss
Cast mystic incense throughout
the depth of silence.
Her boogie rolling steps
Thundered on earth's crust.
-Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’.
‘A woman must have a money and a mind of her own if she has to write’. I stand by this sentence slightly amended according to my reasoning. Money, for realising her dreams of serious writing into a reality, financial support actually makes them think independent, plan different. Mind of her own, for her own space which otherwise is a game, fate plans. Any discussion about the sex becomes controversial and one can’t hope to tell the truth, but I thought I will risk to show why I came to hold whatever opinion I do hold, deprived of one of the essentials mentioned earlier necessary for writing.
Mind could be the outcome of an excitable heart. To come out and breathe, the way a woman need to, to see the beauty of the world along with its agonies, you need a mind. One may not possess that to tell the reading community the truth devoid of facts. Mind, to think and pen what others unthink, to preserve every drop of truth without running through the fingers. Mind, to ponder over the frivolous thoughts a woman gets staring at an avalanche of books sliding down to the desk in front of them. Mind to think their gender has qualities apart, also to question the depiction of woman characters in books men write.
The inner conflicts that go through in the mind of a woman character, her self explanations for her deeds, her choices over one another pose a real threat for a man to portray. It’s easy to characterise her as an epitome of selfless love, a whore, a typical mother, or a traitor. Going beyond, trying her true nature, her justifications unparalleled and unquestioned with her mood swings are areas where men usually finds difficulty. The portrayal of a woman protagonist or an antagonist is more true, acceptable and justifiable when it’s penned by a woman. Nora remains misunderstood until the play ends and her final action of shutting the door in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ could have been a slap direct so that Nora gets self satisfaction as the readers do. Throughout the play, even once she couldn’t convince her husband of her true intentions.
So is the case in Oscar Wilde’s portrayal of Cecily Cardew in The Importance of Being earnest,as a silly, immatured girl and Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax as a matured girl, sacrifice when the readers think of a possible counter movement, in spite of the fact that it’s a comedy. Meena Biswas in Arun Joshi’s ‘A strange Case of Billy Biswas’ is a virtual defeat of self respect a married woman possess. Bilasia is wonderfully portrayed in the beginning, towards the end the character becomes weak. A few case studies are here to prove my point.
The effect of tradition and the lack of tradition on the mind of a writer defines the stream which the writer belongs to. Unfortunately, when a woman writer goes beyond her defined realms to make a character, in effect an actual representation, she’s declined. In her effort to redefine her strong feelings, concept of love, the changes she expect within the family and beyond, she is labelled as a rebel. Yes, this happens right now! You take the name of Madhavikkutty(Kamala Das) among the literate men folk, they will start at you with a guffaw! Literature and further learning could never change the mindset of ‘learned’ men. Such men write novels about women. What an epiphany!
This is the space I was speaking about. Why are some areas exclusively reserved for men as it’s their safe zones? Writing is all about a free mind and a free hand. When it’s tied around by the norms the writer is expected to perform, writing loses its virginity.
‘How we are fallen! fallen by mistaken rules, And Education is more than Nature’s fools;debarred from all improvements of the mind,And to be dull, expected and designed.And if someone would soar above the rest, With warmer fancy, and ambition pressed, So strong the opposing faction still appears, The hopes to thrive can ne’er outweigh the fears.’ Here’s Lady Winchilsea bursting out in indignation against the position of women in 1680 s. Tell me, what has changed substantially?
‘Who blames me? Many, no doubt, and I shall be called discontented. I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes…’ A poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives in you and in me and in many other women! When Woolf concludes her curious queries and conceptions on Women and Fiction giving her readers food for thought, it’s time for me to conclude my essay which is the outcome of a week’s reading,hope my selected readers would love it.