“Kartikeya and his Battle with the Soul Stealer” by Usha Narayanan makes for a riveting read as it records the bildungsroman of Kartikeya and his growth in the process of finding the true purpose of his life.
Kartikeya, the god of war and the son of the gods Shiva and Durga, was deprived of a stable family life from the beginning of his journey. Finding himself alone in a forest on a discreet mountain made him wonder what he was and where he came from. This pain made him feel helpless and confused. Even though he is the descendant of two gods, Kartikeya displays human characteristics and flaws which makes him more of a relatable protagonist. Many instances from the book prove that the son of Shiva had abandonment issues, which were carried forward by him for the rest of his life.
“The beasts around me cradle their young. They bring them food and protect them from their foes. But my parents… my parents have abandoned me on this cruel mountainside. I am at the mercy of the sun, the wind and the wild creatures that stalk their prey at night!” (Page xi)
Having been whisked away mercilessly from the care and shelter of his parents, Kartikeya feels lonely as an infant. Everywhere he looks in the forest; he sees animals taking care of their young ones. However, he could not find anyone of his kind to take care of him. When left in the bleak mountainside, Kartikeya could feel the pangs of isolation creeping upon him, setting a deep-rooted fear of abandonment. It sets a void in him; insecurity which would continue to cause him mental distress and force him to ask many questions about his lineage throughout the book. Making sense of himself and attempting to understand his existence on his own scares him. He does not have anyone to guide him in this endeavour, which makes this process even more daunting.
This fear of not knowing oneself is of utmost torment. Consequently, it leaves a seething rage in Kartikeya towards his abandoners and so, he decides that he would fend for himself until the time came for him to confront the ones who had left him to his fate in the midst of the forest.
“You deserted me, left me to die! But here I am, standing strong and invincible,’ he would tell them. ‘I am sure I was born for a purpose. I will find it and claim my place in the world!” (Page xiii)
Being vulnerable in such a manner lays an urgent need in his consciousness to show his abandoners – his capacity to be independent and capable of living on his own. However, this desperation stems from the reality of him being taken away from where he belonged. The crushing moment of not knowing his origin leaves him in a displaced state of mind, as the absence of this knowledge would be a source of misery for anyone. As the world goes by around him, he can sense that there is no one to look after him making him crave for the warmth of a human connection. As it happens, one tends to cling to the most remote source of attachment that one can find in such circumstances. So, Kartikeya yearns for this affinity from an unfriendly gibbon. The fear of being abandoned is so tremendous for him that it haunts him all the time. He feels neglected and undervalued as there is no one to take responsibility for him, unlike all the younger animals in the forest.
Feeling unloved and dejected establishes a long-lasting impact on Kartikeya – harbouring affinity to the human nature in his divine self. This nature is the very essence of the book, as it embraces and strengthens the idea of being vulnerable. The craving for safety, stability, value, community and support is a natural one when someone feels abandoned. It is only through one’s vulnerabilities that we learn to value the result that comes after struggling with these issues. Conquering them is no less than a divine feat.
Usha Narayanan’s ‘Kartikeya and his battle with the Soul Stealer’ makes for a riveting read as it records Kartikeya’s journey of finding his true calling.