I couldn’t check my WhatsApp messages. The networks were down, and the towers, destroyed. Everyone around me examined their devices in vain. The data services were cut.
The reverberations of his stomping foot could be felt everywhere but to him. His pain was unbearable, cutting deep. Locks of his matted hair spread on the horizon. Each strand creates its tsunami. The third eye blazed brightly in his forehead, spitting fire, a personal inferno. Thunder and lightning emphasized each foot as it came crashing down, bringing destruction in its wake. In his arms, he held the charred, lifeless body of Sati as tears of sorrow flowed down his cheeks. Potent as the Ganga, he held atop his head.
His path was streaked with annihilation; his footsteps, streaks of devastation. Shiva didn’t know his destination, but he needed to find an isolated space where he could revert to his ascetic roots. Where he could grieve the loss of his beloved.
The other gods, aghast at the trailing wreckage, tried everything in their power to stop him, but Shiva was inconsolable. As a last resort, they turned to Lord Vishnu to calm Shiva’s anger down before he demolished the universe. Vishnu deployed his Sudarshan Chakra. The arc of justice chopped Sati’s body into 52 pieces and they fell on the earth. Shiva, bereft, slumped and lapsed within.
The world was saved. Shiva reversed the outage and deaths. All networks were back. Session restored.
Everything was my fault. I was the instigator, but even I didn’t know the reach of my mischief. Let’s start from the beginning.
King Daksha was searching for a prospective groom for his youngest and favourite daughter, Sati. After signing up on BhagwanMatrimony.com, the sheer number of entries amazed him! He and Prasuti, his wife, started the tedious task of shortlisting the candidates. They had to be good-looking, well-settled, earn in multiple figures, and were kings, or at best, first-born princes. Nothing but the best for his Sati.
“Naradmuni, I have shortlisted twenty boys from the site. I am glad you suggested this option! It saves me the trouble to talk to people to find a spouse for my Sati.”
I smiled but burned with anger inwards. Daksha had not selected my candidate, Shiva. Despite editing and Photoshop-ing his photograph, Shiva appeared well… scruffy. No wonder the cantankerous old biddy rejected him. I needed an alternate plan.
That night, while relaxing over madira, I stumbled upon an app called Godinder. My neurons went into overdrive. If I can’t reach the father, maybe I can forge a path via the daughter.
The next morning, I approached Sati as she wrapped up the Zumba session. She was sipping the vile kale protein milkshake. I snuck up to her and started chatting.
“Do you know, beta, your father has selected forty candidates for you!”
“For what, Narad uncle?”
“As potential husbands! He is complaining about you being unmarried to everyone.”
Sati rolled her eyes and grimaced.
“I have explained to him about my career plans. I have recently launched a new line of designer wear. All the top interlokal brands are vying for my attention. But all papa talks about is my marriage. At my sisters’ wedding to Chandrama, the old aunties kept poking me with the elbows with ‘You are next!’. It is annoying uncle. Why can’t I concentrate on my career? Why must I marry a boy that papa selects? I am an adult, I can choose my life partner.”
“Absolutely, Sati. The lokas have spun several millennia, but we still deny our girls’ the right to select their husbands. You should totally choose your spouse.”
I grinned at her as I went in for the kill.
“Have you seen the newly launched app, Godinder? A nerdy prince, Lanzoneshwar, designed it. Fed-up of his parents’ daily taunts about his unmarried state, he swiped in the regular dares for dates. It is very trendy and caters to youngsters.”
A flicker of interest dawned in Sati’s eyes.
“Is it possible to shortlist without papa’s interference?”
“Of course, beta.”
Sati and I created her profile. We chose the best display picture from her vast gallery of selfies.
The first part was on!
We met every day at the Zumba center where Sati tried to enroll me. Imagine me in my austere sadhu clothes, gyrating! I shuddered. We clicked through the matching profiles, and I easily convinced Sati to swipe right on a prince, Gandhamudra. I orchestrated the whole thing, ensuring that Gandhamudra was the worst first date, ever.
Spoiling others’ fun is so much… fun.
Meanwhile, I put the second part of the plan into action. I smiled as I created Shiva’s profile. I knew all about Sati’s likes and dislikes, so I was the best person to defeat the algorithm. Shiva would be the best match for her! Now I had to only convince Shiva. Somehow.
Sipping the disgusting spinach shake, we pored over Sati’s phone. She had a new match! Shiva’s profile matched hers almost to the T.
“But Narad uncle, he is a non-vegetarian. How can I meet someone who eats meat?”
It had been my plan the entire time to create some friction. Overt smoothness arouses suspicion. Conflict reeks of trust/truth.
“Sati, it is the age of the vegans. I am sure you can show him the error of his ways. Going green is the new trend. Look at me? I am guzzling these vegan shakes.”
I held up the glass as an example. If only I could burst it in flames. My muscles ached with all the smiling.
Sati agreed. Her finger hesitated over the screen, finally setting the wheels in motion. Right swipe. Voila!
I hounded and pestered Shiva by sending him incessant messages. No app was left unturned. I mailed him. I WhatsApp-ed him. I Messenger-ed him. Finally, pleased with my relentless pursuit, he succumbed. I was ecstatic.
The third act was due.
Sati and Shiva’s first date was magical. No, really. I channeled my powers to ensure it. But honestly, they did most of the heavy lifting. The moment their eyes met–it was a done deal. After Sati got over her shock at Shiva’s appearance, his mesmerizing smile did her in. It was love at first swipe. They were besotted.
Watching people fall in love is so… satisfying.
That night, after the not-so-hit ride on Nandi, Sati’s feet floated in the air. She met Shiv regularly, and eventually, they deleted their Godinder profiles. Well, I deleted Shiva’s, but why nitpick?
At dinner, Daksha said.
“Sati, some people are coming over tomorrow. Please be home by six o’clock.”
“For what, papa?”
“To ‘see’ you as their potential wife.”
Sati’s mouth fell open as her eyes went googly.
“No way. I will not be paraded around. Anyway, I have already found a husband for myself.”
“What! Who is it?”
“His name is Shiva. He is an orphan and stays at Kailash.”
“What about his family?”
“He is an orphan, papa. He doesn’t know his family.”
“I forbid this relationship, Sati.”
“I am an adult, papa. You can’t dictate my choices.”
Saying that Sati excused herself from the dining table. She left her mother in tears and her father in a rage. Daksha’s eyes flashed. He couldn’t believe his sweet Sati was rebelling in such a manner. She had to be under the influence of the orphan.
Daksha employed several tricks to convince Sati, but she was adamant. He was very vain and as stubborn as Sati. I needed to step in to convert his mind.
“Narad Muni, please help me. I can’t let Sati marry that… pauper. She is royalty! Heck, she is Brahma’s granddaughter. This marriage cannot happen,” he said.
“My Lord, you must recognize the dangers of pushing her too far. You know, King Rewanta? His daughter too fell in love with a commoner. And when he didn’t agree to their marriage, she eloped! Do you want to suffer a similar fate?”
Daksha’s eyes widened in shock. An elopement would be bad for his image. His hands were tied, so he permitted the marriage.
The palace was decked with flowers. The diyas gleamed as much as the fairy lights that twinkled, beckoning the guests. Aromas of the delicacies prepared wafted everywhere. Rose petals adorned the floor and attendants, dressed in silk fineries, sprinkled each guest with attar. The paparazzi went wild as each guest atop their vaahan entered the gates. There was a constant cacophony of clicking cameras and popping flashlights, along with various animal cries!
Sati looked resplendent. The finest of gold jari layered her self-designed red ghagra choli. Her veil was a piece of art. Fine as gossamer, delicate embroidery covered its every inch. Sati practically glowed and radiated an aura of soft, lulling moonlight. And why not? The other son-in-law of the house, Chandrama, granted her that boon for the night. But Sati’s real beauty came from within. She was finally marrying the man of her fantasies. Her dream came true.
As she made her entry to the mandap, Shiva looked up with the stars reflecting in his eyes.
Daksha seethed as he accompanied Sati to the holy fire. His distaste touched the tips of Everest. All the guests–except Shiva, rose at his arrival. Shiva sat there nonchalantly, staring at Sati. Daksha never felt so offended. It was an insult to injury.
He couldn’t believe his daughter–his Sati–was marrying the vile, uncouth man. As a father, the sight of his to-be son-in-law gave him the heebie-jeebies. The man, for God’s sake, arrived at his marriage, dressed in tiger skin. All right, it was a fake one, but who wore that to a formal wedding. And his hair. Daksha almost had a heart attack at the sight of the coiled hairdo.
Shiva had a man bun!
Daksha ran a hand over his short, stylish hair. He visited the salon every fortnight to trim the edges and the sideburns.
The grunge look was so unbecoming.
Shiva sat near the fire, holding Sati’s hand in his, with his wild matted hair flying all around him. Daksha noticed the ash, Shiva so liberally smeared over his body, sprinkled on his Sati’s delicate palm. He could barely control himself from shaking Shiva so they fell off. Narad mentioned Shiva roamed in crematorium and graveyards, and the ash’s, possible, the origin was human! Ugh.
Daksha could barely tolerate the dusty body or the tiger skin toga with the skulls, even the hair was bearable, but the snake coiled around Shiva’s neck was a strict no-no. He tried. Gosh, how he tried. He dragged a reluctant Shiva to his tailors and showed him the best crocodile-skin belts. He even purchased a snake-skin belt for Shiva. But Shiva calmly smiled and politely refused the offering. He said the snake–he even had a name for it, Vasuki, was bound to him. And taking him off was non-negotiable.
He was telling him it was non-negotiable.
What Sati saw in him was beyond his comprehension. Neither did Shiva have any respect for the caste system, he mingled freely with the demons, ghouls, and other reprehensible creatures, nor was he affluent. If Sati’s marriage didn’t result in a powerful alliance with influential people, what was its use? Who married for love, anyway? It was all about compromise, baby.
And Shiva was barely the groom he wanted for Sati. Far from influential, Shiva had made him, Daksha, a laughingstock. He could hear the sniggers and snide comments as the marriage progressed.
He was not a suitable candidate for a husband. Maybe some of Shiva’s million Twitter followers could take him off his hand.
Sati practically swooned. Shiva sat next to her, peering into her eyes with his deep, mysterious black orbs. His magnetic gaze arrested her. In her opinion, Shiva had all the right callings of an excellent life partner. Shiva was humourous, courteous, liberal, and he respected her and her opinions. He was supportive, and he knew how to cook! Agreed, his looks were a little unconventional, but overlooking that, he was a mighty catch.
When Sati gazed at Shiva, she was lost. She could look beyond his external appearance and sense his inner beauty. There was so much calmness in him. He was considerate of others’ opinions, and people mattered to him. They were not means to get to an end–but an actual part of his life.
When he spoke to Sati, Shiva showered his entire attention on her. He made her feel special, and he listened to her design plans. He even volunteered to model for her line of clothes. No other man had made her feel so wanted. Her presence in his life was essential, and he wasn’t shy of announcing it. Whatever Shiva did, he did with single-minded devotion.
Okay, she would have to get used to riding Nandi, but besides that, she adored the photos of his–their–house in Kailash. The snow-covered mountains in the background, the wildflowers, and the green valleys! She could hardly wait to start her life with him.
Oh, yes, the best thing, yet? He promised to turn vegan for her. He was the most suitable candidate to be her husband!
She watched with joy as Shiva and Sati perambulated around the holy fire. The fire hissed as it honoured their every rotation. Ganga felt blessed to be part of their life. And she could barely wait to have another lady in the house! Sati’s presence was going to be such a welcome feature. She could hardly wait.
Perched high above, Ganga sensed the hostility emanating from Daksha. He made no bones about his opinions about Shiva. It was clear to all; he despised him as he couldn’t look beyond Shiva’s physical aspect. Shiva was an embarrassment to him; several notches down from Dakha’s royal self. If only Daksha could see the simplicity in Shiva’s actions or his unselfish and trusting nature.
Shiva’s lovely bride offset Daksha’s view. Sati had sensed his innate goodness and responded to it with gusto. She had accepted him with all his quirks, even Vasuki! Sati was okay with another woman, her, Ganga, being held in Shiva’s matted hair. The woman was a saint, and she met a man who was her match.
Well, almost match. Not to say, Shiva was without his faults. He suffered from a martyr complex. He forever jumped and placed himself in danger to save others, whether or not they deserved it. With drinking halahal and what not! Or even hosting a flowing river atop his head. He spread himself too thin for his loved ones. And, Shiva loved everyone.
He, on occasions, had issues with controlling his rage. It was slow to ignite, but oh boy, when he got going, it was sheer torture to calm him down! But he was reasonable. Sometimes.
The success of marriage wasn’t dependent on one spouse’s candidature, but the combined efforts of the husband and wife. In her view, Sati and Shiva were made for each other.
She should know, she had the bird’s eye view of things.
Hello, I am back. I had stepped away to give others a chance to opine. But now, your loving narrator is here. So where were we? Ah, yes. The network outage.
Even after Sati’s marriage, Daksha couldn’t accept Shiva as his son-in-law. Daksha’s arrogance, mightier than his paternal love, forced him to cut Sati off from her maternal home. He pretended his only biological child was dead. Excellent candidate for the best father award, right?
But Sati couldn’t care less. She and Shiva settled down in their austere house in the unforgiving terrains of Kailash, content with each other.
Daksha got his chance to seek revenge. He organized a maha-yagna where he invited every god and goddess, except Sati and Shiva. Daksha felt Shiva’s presence might offend his guests and embarrass him. He rationalized his decision by thinking that Shiva, being Shiva, would reject his invitation.
But I had to poke my nose in! I whispered about the yagna in Sati’s ears, who was hurt by the fact that her father didn’t invite them for such a grand event. She toyed with the idea of attending it.
“Shiva, a father doesn’t have to invite his daughter. One doesn’t extend formal invitations to family. You and I are his family; it is our duty to attend the maha-yagna.”
Shiva, in his wisdom, was aware of Daksha’s true intentions. He implored Sati to reject the plan as he didn’t want her to get hurt, but it came out all wrong. Sati thought he was patronizing her and Shiva tried to calm her down, but her volcanic ire spilled over them. Shiva was taken aback as her anger manifested into the dasa mahavidya. He tried to flee, but Sati’s avatars blocked his passage. Try as he might, Shiv couldn’t escape. He was trapped. Sati left for her parent’s house, leaving Shiva behind with her ten goddesses as guards.
When she reached the maha–yagna, Daksha mocked her.
“Tired of the ghoul in your life, eh? Have you returned home?”
The guests’ laughter humiliated her.
“No. Shiva is worth much more than a taunting father like you.”
“Go away! You are not welcome here. I didn’t want to sully my yagna by inviting the likes of you.”
“You have forgotten your promise of never insulting me. As your punishment, I am reverting to my original celestial form as Adi-Shakti. You will realize your mistake when Shiva makes you pay.”
Before anyone could react, Sati jumped into the fire. When Shiva heard about Sati’s death, all the networks broke loose. Literally.
Broken down by his grief, he tore out a strand of his hair to create the fiercest warrior, Veerbhadra, who exacted revenge on his behalf.
We have come a full circle.
You are itching to ask me, right? Why did I do it?
Sometimes playing the mischief-maker is so… enjoyable.
Ghagra choli: An Indian dress.
Mandap: An area where marriage takes place.
Maha-yagna: A mighty fire offering
Dasa mahavidya: Ten goddesses of wisdom.
Jari: A golden lace.
Loka: Plane or realm.
The versions presented here are for Shiva’s candidature as an eligible husband. Naradmuni, despite being the first journalist and being wise, was known to cause mischief. An example of his nature can be gleaned by the following conversational snippet:
In Vaikuntha (Lord Vishnu’s Abode), he would regale the Lord with his merry tales. “I described Ahilya’s beauty to Indra until he began lusting for that married woman…Daksha hates Shiva after I reported how Shiva ridicules him…I made Shreedevi jealous of Bhoodevi…I put the fear of death in Kansa’s mind…I praised the pompous Ravana into believing that he was greater than all Gods…”
“Why do you do this, Narada?” asked Vishnu.
“Cause so much trouble”
“I don’t do anything. I merely test their faith in you. If they were your true devotees, would any of them be lustful, wrathful, greedy, envious, frightened, or proud?”
Vishnu burst out laughing and blessed his dearest devotee Narada, who kept chanting, “Narayana, Narayana”.
First published on Penmancy.com