Anuja Chandramouli is the author of Kamadeva: The God of Desire. Her first book Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava was named by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in Indian writing for the year 2013. Read her interview here. Below you can read an excerpt from her novel, KAMADEVA: THE GOD OF DESIRE. Courtesy: Anuja Chandramouli.
EXCERPT FROM KAMADEVA: THE GOD OF DESIRE
By Anuja Chandramouli
SPRING, PUS – FILLED BOILS AND ANOTHER WIFE
Every once in a while, Kama liked to visit his father, Brahma at Brahmaloka, his abode in Mount Meru and pay his respects. Father and son shared a loving if prickly relationship, for Kama had never entirely forgiven his father for cursing him and Brahma still tended to look on his son with a touch of acrimony as it was his belief that Kama had made him disgrace himself in front of Shiva by infecting him with forbidden desire for his daughter. Their differences notwithstanding, their lines of work were aligned, hence both were passionate about what they did and utterly devoted to their respective causes, which was why a visit though not pleasant was not entirely unbearable either.
Yet another thing father and son had in common was a pernicious tendency to annoy each other with barbed critiques on how one felt about the other’s performance of his job. Kama would make it a point to congratulate his father on the extraordinarily good judgment he had exhibited on numerous occasions by granting boons of power to various demons and men with particularly pronounced sociopathic tendencies. Brahma had thus given their despotic and tyrannical natures, a dangerous edge, Kama would point out and put them in a virtually unassailable position from where they could make unholy nuisances of themselves. He would point out the untold hardships and suffering that had sprung forth from the depths of his father’s folly with relish. As a dutiful son, Kama would feel the need to inform him about the juicier epithets that had become attached to his august name by some of the Gods, as well as the nastier jokes that were being circulated in Amaravathi about the Creator’s singular aptitude for creating a stink.
Brahma would then feign nonchalance while suppressing his anger and tell himself that petty rejoinders were beneath him even if they weren’t for his obnoxious offspring. Having regained his composure, he would then launch into a lengthy homily about how it was impossible for sons who had treated their fathers with disrespect to achieve any sort of prosperity or well-being, at the same time predicting the most violent of deaths for them. Kama meanwhile would annoy him further by making elaborate gestures as if to ward off the sleep that seemed determined to overwhelm him and prevent him from listening to the rest of his father’s lecture.
On one particular occasion, Kama found only Saraswati at Brahma’s residence. He was happy to see her as he was genuinely fond of his stepmother and respected her immensely. The Goddess loved him as well and thought of him as a dear friend and an equal. Kama greeted her enthusiastically, ‘You look very well indeed! I take it as a sign that my father is taking good care of you!’
Saraswati smiled at him warmly, ‘Your father is a good husband but I am perfectly capable of looking after myself! As always you are looking very handsome indeed. I have been hearing good things about you and that wife of yours. A number of Gods and great sages have come to your father and told him glowing tales of your achievements. It is the common consensus that the services you have been performing for the Gods will earn you unparalleled respect and fame and will be sung about for the rest of eternity. Your father will never admit it, but he gets puffed up with pride whenever people praise you to him. I am also proud of you and am sorry you are not from my womb! Anybody would love to have such a great son!’
‘That is so kind of you!’Kama said, touched with her sincerity, fully aware of the power of her words and the generous blessings she was heaping on him, ‘But I have not really been thinking about fame or glory. Ever since Shiva spat on me and my powers, a certain stigma has attached itself to me. There are all kinds of power and mine will be considered somewhat frivolous especially when compared to Shiva, Vishnu, and some of the other Gods. It is also highly unlikely that in future, people will build temples in my honour or compose beautiful songs for me. I will be lucky if I am remembered enough to be featured prominently in pornographic material; worse, still is the distinct possibility that the God, Kama will be lampooned as the divine pimp!
I am not really concerned about that sort of thing though. Hopefully, I’ll do my duties without causing any major foul ups or getting cursed into oblivion for as long as I am allowed. At the risk of sounding like a puffed up popinjay, perhaps I’ll be able to make a difference or even spread a touch of happiness—barring which, I may at the most manage to help a few achieve sexual nirvana if not moksha. If I can pull that off, then I will be content and may just allow myself a small pat on the back.’
The Goddess smiled a little but she did not respond in the same light vein, ‘You will not be forgotten and I will personally make sure of that for as long as I preside over the creative arts. Kama will be a familiar figure in literature of the highest water, for romance makes a great muse as does sex, wouldn’t you agree? This self-deprecating attitude of yours is surprising! Extraordinary good looks are almost always the surest indicator of arrogance… And in any case, even if all you do is become a permanent fixture in pornography, there is always comfort to be had from the fact that not everybody has what it takes to be a successful porn star!’
Brahma walked in just then as his wife and son were laughing up a storm over a joke he was absolutely certain was objectionable and more than a little inappropriate for a stepmother and stepson. As always, Kama filled him with mixed emotions. He was a worthy son and had exceeded his expectations on many occasions. But seeing him engaged in animated conversation with his lovely wife, Brahma felt a frisson of disquiet and could not help thinking that perhaps he should have been less generous while endowing Kama with such exceedingly handsome features and such a winsome personality. Brahma himself may bring out his son’s inner jackanapes, but Kama had a wonderful way about him with everybody else and they all thought him too amazing for words. Moreover he had a reputation for being kind, gentle and generous as well.
Sensing his presence, Kama and Saraswati stood up to greet him, palms joined together in the ageless symbol of respect and devotion. Brahma was ridiculously pleased to note that they did not freeze in a tableau of guilt. ‘To what do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected visit?’ he enquired, surprised at the affectionate note in his own voice.
‘Can’t a son visit his beloved father and stepmother for no other reason than the fact that he loves them?’
‘A son can but this son never does… Are you in some sort of trouble? I am surprised you came to me, for I would have expected you to go running to Lord Vishnu.’
Kama was ready with a barbed retort but Saraswati intervened smoothly knowing that they could keep at their bantering till the end of time, ‘It is touching as always to know that males even when they are great Gods behave no differently from bickering adolescents, though they should know better! How long do you intend to keep this up? Kama, it is your duty as a son to forgive your father for all the real and imagined hurts done to you and be nice to him, the way you are to everyone else. As for you, dear husband of mine, you should really put aside your resentment, as he has done nothing to deserve it. In fact, I insist you give him a gift to take home, something special to make up for your unfair treatment of him all this time and for beginning your nonsense with him within moments of greeting him. That is no way to treat a guest in our home who happens to be your son and one who is exceedingly dear to me. Do make sure that you present him with something truly worthwhile that he will treasure forever!’
‘My father has proved that his skills in creating beautiful women are unmatched as the fruit of his labours is standing right before me, uttering words that are music to my ear – but I feel that I must warn you that Rati has sworn to me that if I dared to return with a wife, she would scratch her rival’s eyes out before poisoning the both of us!’ Kama piped up laughingly, clearly amused by his wife’s possessiveness. Saraswati smiled a little at the off colour joke but Brahma remained serious.
‘Saraswati is right about many things… You certainly put the Gods to shame with your infantile behaviour at times. Even so, I will overlook your proclivity for highly galling behaviour and present you with something that will be of immeasurable worth to you!’ Brahma took a deep breath to ready himself to comply with his wife’s wishes, then closed his eyes. He mused over the relationship he shared with Kama. Often he found his son bewildering but his name – Manmatha – was fitting as nobody could agitate minds like him. It was not his habit to dwell on the events that had led to Kama emerging from his heart, but he found himself thinking about the day of his disgrace. He noted with pleasure that he had managed to win himself a consort such as Saraswati and a noble son, whom many insisted was the best gift he had given the Gods and men – even at a time, when his mind had slipped past the restraints he had put in place and wandered away from his steady grasp.
It saddened him to think that the youth who stood before him would soon be devoured by the wrath of Shiva. He himself had guaranteed such a fate for him. Kama’s anger towards him was perfectly justified; Brahma had been generous in granting boons even to demons who had perceptibly wanted to annihilate the Vedic way of life, and yet he had found it in him to curse a son who was so dear to him. Powerful feelings rushed through him while he ruminated thus, and a sigh of co – mingled anxiety and despair escaped his lips like a gust of wind.