True marriage of minds - Goddesses speak up
The dove by now had come near her and alighted on her hands. It did not carry any message. “Just a stray pigeon, eh?” she mused. But she liked birds. As she put out her other hand to gently caress the bird’s smooth feathers, the bird dropped to the ground. And where the bird hit the ground, a seductively beautiful woman stood before her. She seemed to have just appeared from thin air. The woman’s beauty was such that Shruti could feel nonexistent lesbian tendencies stirring within her. If this was the effect she had on her, she wondered how a man would fare in her presence.
“I am an ancient Goddess. You have called me to you and here I come to you, daughter.”
Who the hell was this? She had called no Goddess. And she knew no Goddess who looked like this. Most of the Goddesses she knew were more modest. Then she realized with a start that the woman had spoken in Greek. And strangely Shruti had been able understand. How was that possible? She did not know a word of any language other than Hindi, Kannada and English. From when did she start understanding Greek?
“I am Aphrodite, the Goddess of love. Your heart’s yearning for love drew me to you.”
“My heart’s earning for love! Indeed! You must be joking!” she laughed nervously.
“My dear, you forget that I am a Goddess, a Goddess of love. You can hide your feelings from anyone. But not from me! You still have not forgotten Shabir, have you?”
Shruti felt as if a group of goons had stopped her on the road and stripped her of all her clothes. She did not like her innermost desires to be so transparent for people to see. Shabir had been with her at college. The day she had stepped into college she had set eyes on this dude - six feet tall, athletic figure with well sculpted muscles and the most captivating eyes. It had been love at first sight. But she was a shy girl and had never managed to express her feelings for him. Her best friend Salma had seized initiative where she had failed and had reaped rich dividends. Shruti was heartbroken but she was not the kind to steal her friend’s boyfriends. So she just buried her love deep inside her heart and got on with life. Ten years had passed since. But the love still remained untouched by time like non-bio-degradable plastic. And the previous day, she had met him again!
“I know how you are feeling, dear. But there is no shame in love. Learn to embrace your feelings. Love is the most primitive feeling. Don’t deny it. You can’t stop the tide of love. Go with it. Confess your feelings to him.”
She was by now getting used to the fact that the Goddess could read her thoughts right off her head. What she said did make sense. Shabir was now working at her office. He had broken up with Salma, still unmarried. Her heart still fluttered when he spoke to her like it did when she was in college. And what more he had taken the initiative this time. “It has been such a long time. We have so much to catch up. Why don’t we catch up over dinner tomorrow,” he had said in his usual flamboyant style.
But as her friends always said the problem with her was that she thought too much. If it had been someone else, she would have just gone with the flow. But Shruti was given to too much analysis. She wondered what his intentions were. She tried to peer into the future to see where this would take her. She tried to balance the pros and cons. She wished her creator had paid less attention to her brains and instead focused on her other assets. Ignorance is bliss they say. Why couldn’t she have been a dumb blonde? It would have saved her so much trouble. It was always the bimbos who did well in life. Brains always brought only trouble.
The Goddess smiled sweetly at her as if encouraging the current line of thought. The Goddess walked close to her and put her arms around her. The tide was rising and she could see a great wave coming towards them. She felt a greater surge inside her. Then she felt the sensation of something breaking within her heart. The beast had finally broken its shackles. Her passion was now in full flow.
The sound of the sea waves was broken by the mobile phone ring tone. Some chap wanted to sell her a credit card. It was half past six in the evening. She had come home early from office and dozed off. For the first time she was grateful for a call from a credit card company. She now had enough time to dress up for her first date with Shabir.
Hera gave a knowing smile. ”Fine lady your mother, eh? And what of your father?” Shruti’s thoughts moved on to her father. As a child she had found her father to be distant and inaccessible. But as she grew older, she had grown closer to him. He had jeopardized his career for her sake. He refused lot of lucrative foreign assignments for the sake of continuity of her education. When she had hesitated about going abroad for higher studies, he had stood by her like a rock. He had spent all the savings of his lifetime to fund her education without a second thought.
“I am sure they will be excited when you tell them you are planning to marry a Muslim boy.” The hint of sarcasm in Hera’s voice was unmistakable.
But Hera had made a point. Her parents would indeed be heartbroken if they came to know she was marrying someone from a different community.
“Anyways I guess they have outlived their utility. Who needs them anymore, eh? Independence to indulge in hormonal adventures is more important, isn’t it?” Hera now had a stern expression like her high school mathematics teacher.
Shruti mumbled something, “But Aphrodite……”
“Indeed! That is always her game. You must have heard of the story of Troy. Following her advice lead a whole city into ruin. "
After a pause Hera continued, "If everyone acts independently, what is the difference between humans and animals? A dog has the freedom to hump any bitch he fancies! Is that what you seek? So much for your claim of being social animals! The most fundamental unit of human society is the family. If you undermine the family, whole civilization will come crashing like a tower of dominoes. “
Shruti’s euphoria from her previous night with Shabir was wearing off under the onslaught of Hera’s incisive words. Her mind was filled with guilt now. She was having second thoughts now. Was he worth all the pain she would cause to her parents?
Hera was still not done yet. “Marriage is not a bond between two individuals but between two families that acts as the cement of human society. So isn't it fair that the decision is taken between families rather than between individuals? Your parents have always wished only well for you and sacrificed so many things for your welfare. Yet you want to keep them out of the most important decision of your life? You don't trust them anymore? Marriage is a lifelong commitment. Do you want to decide on that by yourself impulsively? Don’t you think it makes more sense to sit across the table, discuss with your parents and decide together?”
Shruti was now totally confused. She could still sense a yearning for Shabir deep down in her heart. The last evening had been wonderful. They had had a wonderful time together reminiscing the college days. She had been in raptures listening to his smooth voice as he cracked jokes and made her laugh. When she was with him, she totally forgot herself. But now looking back with a clear mind, she felt all that was superficial. She felt she really did not know him as a person beneath his physical appearance and his wit and humor. Luckily the charm had given way for a moment of sanity. He had invited her home for a drink. But she knew what that implied and had not been ready for that. She had excused herself with some lame reason of office work pending. Now she was feeling happy she had done that.
The meadow around her was calm and silent. A gentle breeze was blowing. Her mind was settling down to a calm state. The surge was settling. She was first and foremost her parent’s daughter. She once again felt like a child. She would never let down her parents.
The silence was disturbed by someone gently shaking her. “Shruti, get up. I have made some tea for you. Have it and get ready for office.” Shruti’s mother was surprised when Shruti suddenly jumped out of her bed and gave her a violent bear hug.
Soon she got read and was at work. She sat at her laboratory with a computer in front of her running some simulations. She had an intense expression on her face and seemed completely oblivious to her surroundings. She was happiest when she was at work. She was startled by the sound of hooting. A snow white owl flew towards her. She wondered how it had got inside her laboratory. The owl flew towards her, alighted on the ground in front of her and transformed into a most beautiful woman.
“Oh, no! Not another Goddess!” Two Goddesses had already put her mind into enough turmoil without a third Goddess adding to the confusion. But she was curious who this Goddess was and what she would have to say.
Shruti had often heard the term ‘thinking man’s sex symbol’. She had never seen any difference between the sex symbols of the thinking man and the dumb man though. They all looked the same to her - sluts showing skin on television for money. But now with the appearance of this Goddess, the term took on a new meaning all together. She was dressed in Greek battle armor and had a fierce aspect to her as well. No one could mess with her. Her grey eyes had a deep soulful expression and spoke of great wisdom.
“I am Athena, the Goddess of wisdom. I generally keep away from the squabbles of my step mother and her rival. But your intellectual abilities have impressed me and I want you to realize your potential without falling prey to either of them. So I thought I would come and have a word with you.”
Damn! Every Goddess made sense in her own way. Athena was now making absolute sense. Shruti was passionate about her work. Ever since she had seen ‘Giant Robot’ on television in her school days, she had been fascinated with robots. It was her dream to build an intelligent robot. She had not let it remain an idle dream and had worked towards its realization. She had applied herself to her studies and topped her board exam. She had rejected admission offers from country’s premier institutions and instead opted for a private engineering college that had a dedicated robotics program. She had again aced the course and managed to secure admission to one of the top universities in the US for her post-graduation. After her studies she had managed to secure a job at the robotics division of Sony. She had been one of the key members of the team that designed the robotic dog Aibo. The next step was to design a human robot. She was leading the project at the company’s India research hub.
“So what does Shabir think of your work on positronic thought networks?”
Now what was that? Shabir’s opinion on positronic thought networks? Well, come to think of it he would not make head or tail of all that. And she doubted if he would at all be interested either. Shabir was not into all these techie stuff. He was the marketing guy. Suits, restaurants and wine tasting were his forte.
“So you want to spend the rest of your life wining and dining, discussing about football and world politics?”
She realized with a start that she and Shabir had no common interests. He would never understand her passions for research. What had she been thinking? She felt so relieved Hera had convinced her not to get carried away by her hormonal surge. What a disaster it would have been! Surely her parents would make a much more sensible choice for her.
“So you want to become a good daughter, eh? Marry into a traditional family, cook for your husband, take care of your kids, be a custodian of family values? Very nice! So what about the robotics research? When will you find time for that?” Athena’s grey eyes were flaring.
“But I love my parents. I can’t let them down,” Shruti protested.
Athena’s expression softened a bit. “Who asked you to let them down, dear? Tell me. What is your dad’s greatest ambition?”
“He wants to see me in Stockholm, receiving the Nobel Prize,” Shruti replied hesitantly.
“So isn’t that where your focus should be? Don’t you want to make your father’s dreams come true? Not everyone is gifted with brains like yours. I cannot bear to see you wasting it away on plain trifles.” Athena’s passion was just infectious.
“So you are suggesting I not marry at all?” Shruti blurted out.
“Though I am a virgin Goddess, I have nothing against marriage. It is just that you need to find an intellectual companion. You need someone who can think at your level. It should be someone with who you can discuss your work, someone who understands your aspirations and supports you. Have you heard of the scientists Marie and Pierre Curie? That is what I call an ideal couple.”
That made sense to Shruti. All these Goddesses made perfect sense when they spoke. No wonder they were Goddesses. But Athena made the most sense. She wondered if Hera or Aphrodite made an appearance again, would they again be able to sway her.
Athena continued after a pause. “But do you think you can leave it completely to your parents? Though well intentioned, do you think they are competent to fully assess the intellectual capabilities of your prospective spouse? If you want to get married, it is you who has to wrest initiative, my dear. But you need to guard against being swayed by impulses and make a rational choice. If your choice is strongly grounded in reason, you would be able to convince your parents as well. After all they wish only your welfare.”
“Been working too hard these days, Shruti?” She could feel a man’s hands shaking her gingerly.
“If you sit late into the night, working on the research, this is what happens,” he added.
She had dozed off at work. She opened her eyes and looked into the face of her colleague Benjamin. Benjamin was seven years her senior. He had been her mentor from the day she joined the company. He was one person whose passion for the work exceeded hers. He had been so involved in his work he had not even found time to marry and settle down. Suddenly a strange though occurred to her. “How would it be if she were to marry him?”
She had never looked at him in that angle before. But every day she spent hours conversing with him and she loved every moment of it. He did not make her go weak in her legs like Shabir but she was sure she could spend eternity with him without getting bored. Interesting idea! But she did not know his thoughts and then there was the matter of her parents. There might be some resistance due to his being from a different community, but they would eventually come to love him as a person, she was sure.
The sun was setting. She was standing alone in the middle of a jungle. She did not remember how she got there though. But that was however not her main concern. The distant cries of wild beasts were no longer sounding so distant. It was only a matter of time before it would turn pitch dark. Once it turned dark, she would be fair game for any hungry predator. She had no clue how she was going to get out of here before that.
Then suddenly she heard the rustle of dry leaves. Some creature was coming towards her. Fear just froze her to the spot. As she looked on a beautiful deer emerged from the copse of trees. She let out a sigh of relief. The deer was followed by a girl of around fifteen years of age. Strangely Shruti did not feel surprised to see this young girl in the middle of the jungle. She somehow seemed an integral part of the jungle the same way the trees, the animals and insects were.
Since the girl had made her appearance Shruti could not take her eyes off her. Her eyes were riveted to the girl like a magnet to the North Pole. The face had a quality of innocence and purity to it, but no vulnerability. Instead there was a calm self-assurance. She beckoned to Shruti with a gesture of a hand. Shruti went up to her instinctively. The thought of questioning just did not occur to her.
She handed over a bow and a quiver of arrows to Shruti. She was not sure why she was giving it to her. But she took them and followed her as she walked into the jungle. Then the girl paused and pointed to some tracks on the ground. The prints were large and one could make out sharp claw marks on the wet sand. Clearly they were the tracks of a predator, possibly a tiger. But all this was making absolutely no sense to her. Why was she going with this girl on a tiger hunt? That too with such primitive weapons! But it seemed as if she was under some spell and she just went along. As the time passed, she could feel her eye sight and hearing improving. She was becoming better at following the tiger tracks and listening to animal movements at a distance. Soon they could see the silhouette of the tiger at a distance. Now they had to quite stalk the tiger till they came to a strategic spot from which an arrow could be fired. In a little while, tiger paused to drink at a water hole and they found a strategic spot behind the bushes. The girl pointed in the direction of the tiger. Shruti took aim and shot. Just as the arrow was about to leave the quiver, the girl made a sound and tiger leapt aside just in time to miss the arrow.
By now, Shruti had got fully into the hunt and had begun to enjoy the hunt. She was disappointed at missing the tiger. “Why?” she asked the girl. She could see the answer in the girl’s eyes. She suddenly realized who the girl was. She was Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the hunt. All creatures of the forest were her children and she would not let any harm befall them.
“But then what was the purpose of the hunt?” she asked. The girl just gave her a smile. What was there to smile about, Shruti wondered. But she found herself smiling too thinking of the hunt. She had really enjoyed herself the past one hour. She had never enjoyed herself so much since her days in childhood when she was fully engrossed in her games. She realized that was the answer the Goddess was giving her. The thrill of the hunt was the purpose and nothing else.
Shruti waited expectantly for Artemis to start preaching like the other Goddesses. But to her surprise Artemis started walking away into the forest. She called out after the Goddess. “Artemis! Wait! Don’t you have some advice for me on marriage?”
Artemis stopped, turned back and gave her a quizzical expression. Then she shook her head, gave Shruti a disappointed look and began to walk on. Shruti remembered. Artemis was a virgin Goddess. She was probably telling Shruti what was the big fuss about marriage. In a way she was right. It wasn’t necessary that everyone should get married. After all whether love or arranged or planned marriage what did marriage mean to a woman in the end? Submitting herself to the authority of a man, bearing his kids and taking care of his family! Surely there were better things in life than that! So not marrying at all was another interesting option. Why hadn't she considered that before? But then that was not helping her at all. She was already struggling with the available options and more options were the last thing she needed.
All the earlier dreams had ended as the Goddesses were reaching the fag end of their sermons. But Artemis had vanished with no sermon whatsoever. But still the dream seemed to show no sign of ending. She tried to slap herself and force herself to wake up. But nothing seemed to be happening. It seemed as if the world had come to a standstill. She just stood there in the middle of the jungle. As she stood, she pondered over what each Goddess had told her.
Aphrodite had stirred up her emotions and shown her the importance of being in tune with one’s inner feelings. Hera had appealed to her filial loyalty and social conditioning and made her realize the importance of preserving social norms. Athena had used reason and logic and stressed upon the importance of one’s vocation is life. Now how was she to decide which was more important.
By her silence, Artemis had given her the answer she was seeking: that there was no right or wrong answer. One had to balance between these multiple priorities and think and take one’s own decision. But that did not mean one needed to think too far ahead and get all worked up. The fun was in the hunt and not in killing the tiger. So she just had to take whatever decision felt right, stick by it, take things as they come, focus on the present and have fun.
The insight calmed her mind and she felt an inner peace and harmony. She felt an oneness with the jungle around her and she was really fully present in the present for the first time in her life. It was indeed a delightful feeling. She felt no fear. Even though it had become dark, the cries of wild animals had increased and now and then she could see pairs of red eyes moving in front of her, she felt no fear. She calmly lay down and went into deep slumber. She had finally woken up from her sleep.
Coming up next week - The Fiery Adventure of Salamander - The World as seen by a Comic Hero