Mind fu.. oh wait.
This may be politically incorrect, multi-religiously blasphemous and all that jazz, but seriously what were our ancients smoking? It takes truly brilliant minds to come up with such fascinatingly kinky, twisted stories, attribute it all to gods and goddesses and have centuries of humankind unquestioningly believe in them . To be safe, let me clarify that I say this in a positive sense.
‘Queer’ is a term I absolutely detest, because the very definition of the word defeats the purpose of creating an all inclusive, tolerant society. I don’t know if the purpose of this book was to say that ‘queerness’ has the blessings of the gods, be it Hindu, Roman, Greek, Assyrian or Egyptian. Or whether it is to convince the upholders of present day morality to look within before they judge. Or to say that it has existed over several millennia so let’s not be hypocrites about it. Or to say it happens, deal with it. Or whether it is just another book on Indian mythology for contemporary readers. But I’ve loved every one of Devdutt Pattanaik’s books and I did like this one too.
Most of these stories aren’t new to me. I’ve known many of them since I was a child, thanks to Amar Chitra Katha. But reading them again through adult eyes and from the perspective of ‘queerness’ is what makes this almost mindblowing. Take Karthikeya for instance. From ACK, all I remember was babies born through a spark from Shiva’s head, floating in a river and six beautiful celestial mothers adopting them. These babies then go on to become one baby and is the much loved, much revered god. A heartwarming, beautifully illustrated tale. But now, reading about it from this ‘queer’ angle, I’m sorry to say, I find his actual conception (if you can call it that) plain creepy. Shiva shoots his seed into the mouth of Agni, it is cooled by Vayu, it goes on to impregnate all the male Devas, then finds its way into the wombs of six totally clueless women who are so angry that they discard the foetus in the river. The baby(ies) survives inspite of that, a custody battle follows and in the end we get the god we know and worship as Skanda-Karthikeya-Muruga . How crazy is that.
The last time I read about Aravan, after maybe an ACK comic, was in Devdutt Pattanaik’s Jaya. All I felt then was anger towards Arjuna for being so callous and unfeeling about his own son, one whom he didn’t even remember and was ready to sacrifice. I was irritated with the son of Uloopi and Arjuna for wanting to help the father who had no clue about who he was. And the unfairness of it all. But I didn’t give much thought to the queer angle of this tale. And the lesser said about what I think of Krishna the better. I can’t bring myself to justify anything which that god has ever done ever.
There are thirty such stories in this book, twisted stories, stories of gods and men being castrated for showing restraint, for not showing restraint; men turning into women, women turning into men; deer eating human seed and giving birth to humans with antlers; crossdressing gods, sons of gods and mere mortals; men taking the form of animals and sneaking into unwilling women’s beds; Bhagirath ,whose very name means what it means, born of two ladyparts; men giving birth to men, men giving birth to women, men giving birth to iron maces. There are also tales from Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and other ancient civilizations where Things happened.
Maybe these stories started off with the good intention of encouraging ancient societies to embrace all kinds of people. Or maybe these stories were all made up by cunning men to justify their kinks. (I won’t say women, it was a male dominated society) Or maybe these stories were just versions of pr0n or fantasy fiction back then.
But whatever it was meant to be, then and now, this book left me totally mindfucked. And looks like that was one bodypart that our gods or our ancestors didn’t actually do.
Let me make some things absolutely clear about where I stand on the LGBT community. I fully support them, their rights and their lives. I believe that it is natural. Natural because it is part of nature. You even see such orientation in the animal kingdom. But normal, I won’t say. It is not normal. Like say a birthmark is natural, but not normal. I also believe that this is not a disease and it is not something that can be or needs to be ‘cured’. I am totally in favour of scrapping Sec 377. The government has no right in anyone’s bedrooms, they can’t dictate whom people should love or how. I try my best not to use the word gay as an insult (though I sometimes do). I’ve been brought up to call the saree wearing eunuch who used to deliver the newspaper as ‘aval’ or ‘her’ and not ‘adhu’ or ‘it’. But I also believe that the LGBT community does not need our condescending and patronizing support, they need us to just let them be. So I won’t be seen sporting the rainbow colours on my Twitter or Facebook DP.
And then, on the other side, in Oct 2009, sometime around when Sec 377 was decriminalized, I wrote a blogpost titled ‘377=666?’ and was all judgy about a picture of a famous fashion designer in an open liplock with his (then?) boyfriend. This was what I had written. And I hmmm to myself about it. And cringe. But then, this was five years ago. And I was stupid. Kindof.
I pride myself in being extremely broad minded. I always support everything that society frowns upon.Sometimes because I really mean it, and sometimes just to go against the grain. But anyway, I always ask “Who made up the rules?” If something happens it was meant to be that way. So just let it be.
…..but ever since the great 377 floodgates opened up in the country, there has been a small chink in my armour and I have begun to rethink my “broadminded” stand
I slowly find my support wavering away from Celina Jaitely and moving reluctantly towards Baba Ramdev. I tried hard to sway towards Celina, but the wind kept whispering otherwise and kept pushing me away.
But yesterday two images from the Van Heusen Men’s Fashion Week sealed my resolve strongly and firmly, and now, I can declare with conviction that I wholeheartedly support Baba Ramdev and Co
But people change. Attitudes change. Opinions change. I changed. I grew up.