Monday, April 15, 2013

The Legend of the VishaKanya

The legend of the VishaKanya…

Have you ever wandered in all hot and sweaty from a blazing noon sun and headed straight into a cold shower? As the cold, flowing water cleanses the sweat and the fatigue of the outside, you feel a loosening of both the muscles and the mind, all the stiffness leaching out of you along with the flowing water pelting you like a thousand sharp needles, stinging briefly for microseconds before disappearing to leave behind a sensation of instant relief. Sometimes we get a similar sensation emotionally and the experience is usually cathartic washing away the stains of a thousand minor irritations and leaving us renewed and rejuvenated mentally. But more on that later. Let’s start from the beginning.

As previous readers of this blog might remember, I grew up in a large apartment complex- a sort of self contained colony you might say, with a number of high rising apartment blocks named after the letters of the alphabet as Block A,B,C,D,E, you get the idea. In a colony that big it’s natural that there were lots and lots of kids in the various apartments who all grew up together from boyhood sharing everything. With time some of us moved away to other areas, other cities, other countries even but a core group of kids who grew up in those apartments still live there and anytime I feel the urge to visit- the feeling is a joyful homecoming, almost like visiting your native village. As boys, when we were growing up, some of us used to be looked up to by the other kids. This hierarchy among kids developed quite naturally on the- who could back up their words with their fists principle- requiring both brain and brawn. Old habits die hard and even now, when all are grown up adults, a conflict of any sort in the apartments is still settled in the old way- in the garden behind the playground far away from interfering adult eyes, things continuing to be done as they always were.

And so it was that I wasn’t much surprised when I was invited to the local version of a katta-panchayat on a recent visit to the apartments on a boring Sunday evening. After the mandatory backslapping and exchanging of pleasantries involved on meeting old friends in person again, the guys told me that there was a bit of a problem between two of  the gang and it better be settled as soon as possible for the peace of all. I agreed with the wisdom of that and consented to help them decide what promised to be a knotty issue; before it spoiled longstanding friendships. As soon as everyone had assembled under the big neem tree in the garden behind the playground where the little kids play on their swings and seesaw, watched over by anxious mothers, we got the proceedings under way. The enquiry session was kick started by asking the parties involved in the dispute to come forward and state their respective versions of the story to the assembled elders.

First up before the enquiry commission was, let’s just call him -Vijay (all names fictional), a short angry guy who asked us in all his righteous wrath to confirm from the accused Gopal whether "Is he going to marry her or not? I want a definite answer right now” he demanded foaming from the mouth. That question, unexpected as it was, rocked everyone listening and before the spluttering Gopal could protest in a loud voice this unprovoked assault on his marital freedom of choice, "Hold on" I cried, holding up my hands "I don’t know the back story, tell me who is this she?”. My friend Senthil, the one previously referred to as Sumo Senthil (on my past blogposts) answered my query on behalf of the enquiry committee, and explained it all to me "It’s this girl called Shruthi, B-27, fifth floor" . And now it was my turn to be surprised and ask "You mean our Scooty Shruthi?, that scrawny scarecrow look alike?, and these guys are fighting over her?" I whispered to Senthil in an aside, for I had previously had run-ins with the very same Shruthi when I was living there and the end result had been called a draw on both sides with no real victor. Senthil shook his head "No, no, they vacated a long time ago to that new apartment complex at the end of Taylors road. This one is after your time, but she is from the same B-block. Anyway, Scooty Shruthi still has that Scooty and still hangs around the Fruit shop on Greams Road and still looks as thin as a skeleton, that is if you are interested in renewing your old acquaintance" he added slyly.  I refused to be drawn to that bait and said "Let bygones be bygones, it’s not nice to fight with girls now that we are all grown up adults and mature people".

And to cut right to the chase we asked Gopal point blank "Answer him, what are your intentions about that girl, tell us?" and we were all curiously awaiting his answer. Gopal, a tall thin guy with a mop of hair around his forehead covering half the face, answered back in equal rage "What’s it to him then? Why should he bother whether I marry her or dump her as long as we are going steady it’s up to me and the girl to decide, right?”. This was of course true, in any relationship on the verge of splitting it’s the couple alone who know the entire truth, but this explanation did not cramp Vijay’s style; for he justified his part in their affair by arguing "She is my friend also you know, I am asking out of friendship’s sake, I don’t want her to get hurt if you dump her after getting her too involved in you and don’t assume anything else, I have no interest in her beyond true friendship". And the entire committee took a break from the enquiry proceedings to laugh out loud at this latest version of dispassionate friendship. Senthil, who never let any opportunity to put down others pass by, declared loudly "Go tell that story to the girls, they might believe you. we are all guys here and we know very well when a guy champions a girl and pleads friendship for it, it only means one thing, he can’t wait to get into her pants but someone else is already occupying it barring the way in" (Senthil always had an uncouth way of putting things into words and hence was called “Cooum Mouth” behind his back, but I am digressing). So the committee after this unexpected comedy break asked Vijay with one voice "Tell the truth now, do you or do you not have any idea about her? Drop all this bullshit dialogue of platonic friendship and confess first".

Cornered then, Vijay scratched his head and said "But look boss, these two have been going out steady for almost a year now and he still hasn’t proposed to her. She told me everything last week and almost cried to me saying that without knowing what his intentions are, whether he is going to marry her or not, she cannot decide between us two. If he keeps her in hopes, then how can she give me a chance? Either he commits to her and confirms the relationship or he just leaves her alone so someone else can go steady with her. Instead of which, he is just keeping her in suspense and you know what a tragic past she already has, she has already had two breaks up and suffered much and if this also doesn’t work out she will become very suspicious of all men" he looked relieved once he had got those words out of his chest. What he said seemed to be fair to me and so I opened my mouth for the first time and asked Gopal "Its reasonable what he says, why be a dog in the manger type, either commit or move on". Gopal looked wounded "You too ji? Let me tell you, I too want to commit but the thing is, you know, it’s what happened to her previous boyfriends". This was news to everyone and we chorused “What happened?”

I was all ears as Gopal explained it to us "You know, I talked to her past guys casually about a doubt I had and they both agree on why they broke up with her. It’s because of her horoscope. You see this girl has a snake dasa in her horoscope – called kala sarpa dosha and because of that if anyone who doesn’t have the same snake dasa gets close to her, they are at risk of their lives" ok, I thought, this was as outrageous a piece of break-up excuse as I had ever heard and I wondered briefly why I had never thought this one up, could have been so useful to me in certain tight spots, and mentally doffing my hat off to Gopal for his creativity, I filed it down for future use. Meanwhile regardless of our skeptical responses, Gopal was continuing with his story in all seriousness "Ok, Ok, at first like all of you, I too didn’t believe it. But then I found out from her exes that every time one got close to her something bad happened immediately and also I personally confirmed it by myself. I kissed her twice and both times I had an accident almost immediately, exactly as her ex-boyfriends complained".

We were all nonplussed at this authentic piece of evidence and were chewing over it silently when Anand the scholar of our group spoke up "Vishakanya. She is a Vishakanya. The same thing is described in Arthasastra of Kautilya". I couldn't keep the skepticism out of my voice "Chanakya's magnum opus?" exactly, Anand beamed broadly at me, all smiles (he must have really missed talking to someone on his intellectual plane) "It’s written there that in the past kings used to keep such maidens with them and used to send them as gifts to their enemy kings. If the enemy laid with her even once, then immediately the snake dasa will take effect and he will die of snake bite". I couldn’t help correcting him "Hold on, that’s not the version I heard, the books I have read told of how these maidens, the most beautiful girls in the kingdoms, were selected especially to act as spies and assassins for the Mauryan Empire. They were trained well in all the arts of seduction and also fed a diet from childhood made up exclusively of the strongest poisons known to Ayurveda, so that by the time they turned adults, their entire bloodstream was poisoned and sex with them was instant death". I took a deep breath and said "I believe that’s the correct explanation for vishkanyas and not any stars or dasas or dosas. How could you guys in this modern world still be so superstitious and spout such nonsense?” And so to and fro we argued whether horoscopes really worked, whether astrology was bullshit or not, whether vishkanyas had ever existed in reality and whether they were dangerous from birth or by training.

When we finally stopped to gather some breath after a nonstop discussion, the committee decided to pronounce what seemed to it a fair verdict. Gopal was firmly told to break up with the girl immediately under any pretense, but never to speak a word of his true reason- his fear of death if he got any closer to her; for this was not something to be said to any girl if you wanted to keep an unbroken head and Vijay was strictly warned to keep away from jumping at her the instant Gopal broke up (for he said he was game to take the risk) and to continue the only friendship act for a considerable cooling off period to make sure she didn’t get into any rebound relationship only to hurt Gopal. Both parties were left dissatisfied, but that’s how it is with the best impartial judgments. So the matter of the Vishkanyas was left half argued at best and I still feel the urge to ask an expert (just curious) about the vishkanyas, so any authentic information would be welcomed.

Anyway to come back to the first para of this post; after the group discussion got over, the boys broke up into individual little groups to continue one-on-one conversations. And as I sat there, relaxed at last in a place I truly belong to, my old spot under the neem tree, the cloud cover in the sky broke and a single shaft of sunlight fell straight on my head and just like that I experienced a "Mahaparinirvana" moment where I attained enlightenment like Gautama Buddha. As I glanced around at the assembled crowd of my boyhood friends and listened to their excited conversations and arguments about girls and well, girls; I came to the huge realization, that here I was and of the same age as all these fellows, but somehow a huge mental gap had opened up between us. They were still as they always were, care free, fun loving and chasing after girls, arguing over who should date who and who should break up with who, almost as if time had stood still, while I over the past year or so had changed for the worse to worry about marriage, trying to find the right one and putting unnecessary stress and pressure on myself and losing so much hair in the process. With an almost spiritual clarity, I could see where I had gone wrong, I had matured faster than my peers and friends and had unnecessarily involved myself in things which others in my age group weren’t even thinking about. Serves me right, I thought bitterly. It’s like the old jungle saying (in the phantom comics) - love ‘em and leave ‘em and they line up for you; ask them to wed and get a swift kick in the balls. So then and there, I resolved to give up all this stupid searching for the soul mate quest (f*** marriage and all that crap) and concentrate strictly on booty-call. To put it bluntly, to be like my friends, to act my age and stop being so mature. Here’s to a new, renewed and mentally younger me. Cheers.

P.S. VishaKanya- From  Sanskrit – Visha meaning Posion and Kanya meaning Maiden.
Mahaparinirvana- From Pali – The Great Awakening.
For further info – read here on Wikipedia .

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