Rarely does it happen, but when it happens, there’s a great tension and a weird joy. I am talking of the ‘celestial event’ when Maha Shivratri popped up on the penultimate day of Valentine’s week!
The night of Maha Shivratri merged with the birthday of Saint Valentine this time. Such a meeting of the Oriental and the Occidental festivities – especially since the Valentine’s Day, already an ‘obscure celebration’ by secret lovers, approaches near oblivion (because the opponents of this occasion rule the narrative and the law) – makes for some interesting observations.
Interesting times that we live in, I was surprised when one of my colleagues said that he was going to celebrate Shiva’s birthday, rather than the Valentine’s Day. This after he had his fifth break-up.
“So, you have become enlightened?” I asked.
“Sab moh-maya hain (Everything is an illusion of desire and lust),” he proclaimed.
However, I was suspicious if his new-found love for Shiva was the breaking off the mask of maya – or if he was secretly fearing that he might become the lynching sack for some right-wing group. Nowadays, interesting things are happening in the virtual world as people easily get bored with the real world – if at all there’s any ‘reality’ there. A whole array of events were planned at popular squares on February 14, where people apparently want to join ranks with the right wing’s cause. This certainly is a public mockery of the overenthusiastic Right – ‘Indian’ at best, injurious at worst.
However, how did broken hearts and love-starved hearts (call them singles) end up at Shiva’s grace? Don’t they know that Shiva, despite being an alpha male and ruthless celibate, was also a passionate lover? And how did the Adiyogi (Shiva) gain a surge in popularity? This, however, doesn’t have anything to do with a general surge in conservatism. Rather, it has much to do with a surge in the breaking of hearts and the need for redemption and reclusion at the hands of a higher power, after failed attempt(s) to win the world of another soul.
A popular Facebook motivational page declares that kids celebrate Valentine’s Day, while legends celebrate Shivratri! No wonder India’s aspirational ‘clay model’ has gone from Mohan Bhargav, a gentle space engineer at a sarkaari jagah, albeit the American NASA (“Swades”) – to the more alpha male, private space magnate Elon Musk.
Bollywood made it cool for young men to seek a women’s love, and for women to long for it. But then again, in those days, there wasn’t the AI eating out jobs. Today, as AIs eat out existing jobs, thereby making men seek jobs first, the more romantic aspects are veering off. It is at such times when men and women are back to their survival instincts that Shiva comes to the fore. Shiva is an idea and an aspiration. He is a human in complete control of his destiny, who doesn’t care about worldly vagaries. And therefore, he’s a god.
“Love hath made thee a tame snake,” says Shakespeare in “As You Like It”. Even the most masculine of boys lean like a strand of the rose plant, when in love. They temporarily hide their thorns by the display of roses. But, the thorns – as ego is referred to in metaphysics – starts hurting his mistress. Unlike the bygone ages, when she used to budge generally, she doesn’t do so, in today’s age. She has started seeing beyond the roses, my friend. Soon, the blood spills on the floor and a heartbreak occurs.
Furthermore, there are men and women alike, who play with romance – never serious about love nor about their lives. Such people like playing with the emotions of the others and seek joy in that pursuit. Tinder, for one, has become the home for such aashiques. Many men scornfully reject (left-swipe?) girls whom they don’t consider beautiful – while many girls also do the same, often mockingly. It would seem that the great capitalists of the Occidental world have commoditised subjective emotions such as love and friendship.
Even as we were discussing Shiva, my colleague started checking pictures of girls on Tinder. “I thought you said everything is maya?” I asked.
“It is!” he said, putting his hands around my shoulder, “But what’s stopping you from not seeing beautiful girls.”
I could see a couple enjoying ice creams at a Naturals outlet. The guy was listening to the girl, as she was probably complaining about her boss. Suddenly the guy’s phone rang and it disturbed the conversation. I had to smile – because that call increased the probability of this guy becoming a Shiva devotee next year.
This reminds me of one of my college mate turning to “Krishna consciousness” because he was rejected by a girl. In my opinion, he should actually thank her for his elevation! Was this how love operated in this world? Or has it become as such today, when you are expected to function through your Facebook profile or Twitter handle? While living our lives as silos, have we cut all the channels we ever had for love and affection? Again, as Juliet said, “If love be blind, it best agrees with night!”
However, the most dangerous are the love-starved men. They are the ‘single men’ Emperor Claudius II valorised, who were better soldiers than the ones with wives and families. If Saint Valentine did disobey the decree of Claudius outlawing marriage for young men, it’s no wonder that he was given the death sentence. Where is the glory in the breakups and heartbreaks?
Everybody knows what happened to Romeo and Juliet. Moreover, in many cases, the society never likes if someone actually finds the love of their life. And therefore they will, like shrewd lawyers, find all loopholes in religion and culture – all to break them apart.
What use then to push and shove through such a rough patch? Shiva is a hippie. He represents the carefree aspect of human life. And this is what broken hearts love about him. But Shiva has an innate discipline, invincibility and order that is important for us to see. He is carefree because he is very cautious.
My colleague and I were at a metro station when a lady came up to meet him. However, that wasn’t odd. Minutes later, another woman saw him, smiled at our guy, came over, had a chat for a moment and left. The first woman, now angry, left without the affection that was there in the beginning.
I asked him who the two women were.
“The first one was my fourth girlfriend (call her Y). The second was my ex (call her X). Y had broken up because I had grown closer to X,” said my colleague.
“You still meet them?”
“Yes, we still are friends.”
Har Har Mahadev!
Featured image used for representative purposes only.