Ronita Bhattacharya is a suburban mom of 3 kids. She loves to cook, bake, do yoga, dabble at gardening and she thinks that writing poems are therapeutic. Many moons ago she used to teach language and comparative literature courses.
Adrishwanty…or story of a girl who could vanish!
I see you walking across blooming valleys and snow-clad caverns
These are the misty foothills of the mighty Himalayas
Where yogis meditate and the seven rivers flow
This is the land of milk and honey, gods and demons
The magnificent and the terrible come together to create epics
As and when they mingle with the mortal humans…
Brave girl-woman you walk cautiously in confident strides
(Unseen by all)
You walk across gurgling rivers and mossy knolls,
Doves, does and mountain goats are your followers,
Perhaps you have a golden hawk perched on your shoulder
When the hawk screeches, they know that you have arrived.
Nymph like invisible Adrishwanty, you hunt with your spear, gather succulent berries
Lion-hide-clad o unparalleled one, your life is as shadowy
and mysterious as you pregnant belly ( which you hide well)
from carnivores, demons and cannibals.
I wonder why you (almost) never look tired,
You are carrying him after all in your womb for years and years
A male child endowed with knowledge
of all the scriptures that you know by heart
And recite with him in harmony,
morning, noon and night.
Your child comes from a noble lineage of scholars and priests,
keep repeating the story to him,
repetition makes a story perfect.
And you know very well, that stories as they are,
are as true as the bloodline in this god blessed valley.
and you know that you will be moving
the heaven if you have to, but this child of yours will be born.
You must sustain him and protect him
Till you are ready to give birth.
You know you can give birth only when the stars align
So you keep checking the constellations patiently at night
..till that safe day arrives.
Are you still haunted by the carnage that took your husband and his clan?
Or maybe they are a faded memory by now…after all he was a gnarly bumbling hermit,old enough to be your father.
You know in your heart that there was no love
He did not desire you, nor look at you with tenderness
You were a mate chosen to mother his son
Did you foresee this future for yourself?
You were a dutiful wife at an age when you should have played “house” with dolls,
And laugh those gleeful laughs that only young girls can,
You were denied of an adolescence,
A terrible time when young girls feel magic running like quick silver through unseen
parts of their bodies, seeing boys they would never (really) meet,
Or fall madly in love and be loved in return.
You were a always a wife and a clans woman, duty bound as a worker bee
You were born to fulfill a destiny as your mother told you,
The noble destiny of motherhood
To carry on a very impressive bloodline.
They also told you something else over and over
Do not to talk about your power of invisibility or
your knowledge of mathematics and scriptures.
No one likes a show off your father said,
and you listened.
And you accepted silently when your husband said
your so called power and knowledge are not a part of your destiny.
Should we call it a poetic justice then
That it is your innate power, that saved you and your fetus on that fateful day?
Despite the beauty that you see all around you in this heaven like valley
And all the adventures that you have had,
There is an emptiness that haunts you these days
And as you keep growing like the crescent moon,
You crave to socialize, to belong to a group.
When these thoughts of loneliness send a chill down your spine,
You talk to Parasar, your unborn son.
Your only close friend and soul mate.
He is a good child, wise beyond his age and knows why he must wait to be born…
He finds it amusing that you have a super power,
He says, you are the only mother who can summon the power of invisibility
He says, wait till my friends hear about you…they will look upto you in wonder
Kavis will sing ballads and fill up scrolls writing about our adventures
and every girl in the valley will be in awe of you…for generations!
You grow nervous and tell him, “hush my darling, we must be careful”
“we must protect ourselves till we know it’s safe,
safe for you to be born and for me to be your mother in front of the world.
How proud I will be when you grow up and mesmerize sages of the three worlds with your brilliance and knowledge… heart of my heart,
Maybe tomorrow is the day”
Parasar does not daydream of that day any more and
He is happy when lulled to sleep in his mother’s womb.
So indeed what a pleasant surprise it would be
to chance upon his grandfather at daybreak
when peacocks soared above the creeping jasmines to announce monsoon,
The great sage passing by, heard a perfect rendition of a solemn Vedic chant,
in a melodious voice in the deep dark forest.
It is not everyday after all that a man meets his dead son’s wife, who has the power to remain invisible and hold labor for twelve long years!
Parasar was born with blessings of his clan,
He was loved and respected for his scholarship
and although his best achievement was to impregnate a woman whom he could not have, but he did father a son.
And if you have read the Mahabharata, you would know that this son of Parasar’s
would write that great Indian epic.
He wrote stories of demons and kings who ruled for thousands of years,
Scheming gods and magnificent women who mated with them to beget heroic sons,
and the blood-bath of a battle that determined good and evil, piety and sin…
However, no one really knows why he wrote less than a complete couplet about the woman who resurrects his lineage.
She remains tucked away somewhere in the dusty pages of his voluminous book,
known as Adrishwanty…one who could disappear!
How do I know her story you ask?
Frankly I know little more than her name ( or is it a moniker I wonder!)
But when you read about a woman who does more than cook, teach, design a bridge and run a marathon, while nursing (like we all do),
When you find a heroic fore mother
Unsung in epics, ballads and even women’s songs,
You must find an audience and tell that tale.
And like all epic stories you know this in your heart, that every word of this story as I say is real.
People say that you were conceived by the Brahma and later you two copulated as your creator lusted after your irresistible beauty!
They also say that you are a light skinned, luscious Aryan beauty, bachelorette, you ride a white sawn, play a veena like no one else can and impart knowledge…
Indian Minarva, I knew all your stories by heart.
All of us did.
We listened to your fantastic stories and memorized your praises to ensure blessings and good grades.
There was a lot of fear and respect,
however, we remain unsure if you are the perfect role model!
Independant, self reliant, yet unattached ( unloved) is no little girl’s dream after all.
I know in good faith that boys lusted after you secretly, guiltily …helplessly.
One of them who dared to paint you was exiled and the other was dragged to court for writing a free spirited “hymn”.
For someone who remained un-tethered and independent, you sure know how to spin webs of stories around you like a diva or Devi as we say.
Now I am old enough to let go of the fear and smile instead when I remember your stories and marvel!
I do believe in you though, with all my heart.
Do you remember that we knew each other?
I would meet you every morning on my way to school. Matted hair, doe eyed 9 year old Saraswati, I met you in the elevator every morning. I would be barely awake dragging my backpack to middle school, to hoard more knowledge and you also barely awake, would start your day of hard labor.
Did you work for two families or three? Did you take care of their babies and elders, wash clothes, dishes, and cook? I don’t remember. However, I do remember that everyday you would promise me, “when I go back to my mother, just like you I too would go to school”.