Demon Slayer and Beautiful Beloved

She is the original feminist and her brand variants are endless


The marketing person in me admires Devi, who dispenses knowledge, militancy or money depending on which altar her devotee feels like workshipping on that day! Her brand variants are endless, and clearly differentiated. No lemon or lychee flavour marginal difference between them. She wields one ldnd of power because she is Mahishasura Mardini, the demon slayer, and a clearly different one because she is Madhusudana Kamini, Vishnu's beautiful beloved, on which basis she extracts a lot of favours from him. She is the stoic Parvati and the food giver Annapoorna who, when slighted, can go on strike and make even the most powerful come to her, begging bowl in hand. She is the emotionally blackmailing, fasting-without even eating a leaf-Anarna. I always wonder though how she manages the variants of Mahishasura Mardini and Madhusudana Kamini without accidentally using the wrong variant for the wrong market. I also love the fact that the long queues of women during Dussehra are replaced by equally long queues of men during Lakshmi puja, waiting with such very different asks.

She is the original feminist. I was reading a version of the Devi Purana, written in GCE in Bengal And one of the flunkeys of Mahishasura, the buffalo demon, tells her that her beautiful hands should not be holding such ugly weapons: and that she should be on a soft downy mattress with her legs around his master's neck (yes, it actually says os in the translation that I am reading!) Her reply is hilariously dismissive. She asks him to tell his master that she is way out of his league and he is better of finding a she buffalo to cohabit with I my favorite temple is the Durga temple at Varanasi which I describe to my women friends as having a certain "F you" quality to it. And they instantly "get" the meaning. She stands resplendent and tail and seems to be saying. "Here I stand, gorgeous, graceful and gracious: my identity is defined by who I am and not by who comes to visit me; come and touch your forehead to my floor if you wish, if not, really no problem at all."

My mother has her own definition of feminism though, and so does my daughter. My mother is the original feminist of her day, very well educated of her times, utterly mentally emancipated and totally socially conformist. Like many south Indian women of her generation, she hasn't learnt the fine art of matching her blouses and saris, and so will go anywhere in vibrantly coloured kanjeevaram saris, worn with white or black blouses. On the day of my brother's wedding. I begged her to please make the effort to match her blouse and sari. She looked at me pityingly and said. "I really feel sorry for you. Despite all your success, you don't have the social confidence to go out with an unmatched blouse. "Ouch. To this day it rankles. Do all my achievements not give me the social confidence and mental freedom to wear a white blouse with a purple sari, especially given the amount of time and effort it takes to have a matched wardrobe? She also never fails to tell me often, "it's easy to practice women's lib when you are earning. Look at me. Despite being under your father's thumb financially, I was still my own person. "there we go again! My sense of self is rapidly diminishing. When my daughter was six, she said to her dad in a sad, knowing tome, "I don't know why you married her. All she does is watch Bold and the Beautiful, talk on the phone and go to meetings." So it does appear that I haven't managed either the ahishasura mardini (demon slayer) or the Madhusudana Kamini (his beloved) bit right. But for these nine days at least, who cares!

The women waiting in the queue for the temple are variegated, and capture all the shades and grades of Indian women. Shiny saris, black beads, Jeans and T-shirts, Salwar kameez, bindi foreheads for some, sindoor maangs for others, nothing but lipstick on others, modern and jazzy handbags and colourful cloth bags mingle, and the chappals and sandals are high-heeled, low-heeled, plastic, rubber. There is a universal air of freedom and partying! Where are the problem husbands the harassing mothers-in-law, the wailing brats? It does seem like a nine-day reprieve from the cares of gender, courtesy of Shakti.