Slaying in Style

Slaying in Style

Kailash was bustling with activity. The blinding snow was neutralised by a plethora of colours strewn across. The entrances to the caves were decorated with strands of fresh marigold— both yellow and orange. The cave archways were embellished with orchids, chrysanthemum and fillers. A rich fragrance of rose filled the air as multiple bouquets adorned the different corners of the abode. The rich aroma and warmth of ‘Dhoop’ maintained the desired temperatures keeping the inmates warm despite the glacial sub-zero conditions.

Shiva perched high upon His favourite rock, jittery about the prospect of having to manage the errands at Kailash for ten whole days. He sat there; all eyes for His beloved consort, Durga. Yes, it was that time of the year again when His most loved Durga was set off on the annual trip with kids to Her maternal home, The Earth— Her ‘Mayka’. 

“Can you not give it a skip this year, darling?” implored Shiva.

Durga was busy stirring a dozen kadais with Her multiple hands. She had to stock up food for all the inmates at Kailash for ten whole days after all. Now, each kadai contained a different delicacy—mostly one pot meals brimming with nutrition. The aroma emanating from these gastronomic delicacies suspended throughout.

“Are you kidding Me, Swami! I’ve got to go. Millions of My fans, My family and friends are waiting for my arrival. The only time of the year when I really get to tour India with the kids and also eat everything from Sundal and Pongal to Paayesh and Khichdi without actually having to cook them. That relief is the greatest of all kinds, won’t You reckon?

“Now don’t hinder my routine, Mahadev. My visit to the parlour too, is overdue. I just hope My appointment doesn’t get cancelled,” lamented Durga.

“You honestly don’t need a parlour, do You? You are already soooooooo beautiful,” complimented Shiva.

Durga blushed pink. Just then, Her mobile rang. 

‘Aaj blue hai paani, paani, paani, paani, paani, paani,

Aur dil bhi sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny…

Aajaao on the beach, yaar

Photo meri kheench,

Phooti kismat hogi teri gar tune ye baat na maani…’

“Hello! Who’s this? Oh! From the parlour. Yes, yes, please don’t cancel My appointment. I will be there in twenty minutes.

Durga quickly wound up the kitchens. “My Dearest Swami, I have already finalised the kids’ packing. I will come back from the parlour and oversee if the kids have all their packing in place for the next ten days. I just don’t want them to forget something petty and end up creating a ruckus down there.”

Shiva nodded half-heartedly while Durga quickly got ready for Her visit to the parlour. 

“You think I could help oversee the kids’ packing and their paraphernalia? It would give some free time for Yourself. You deserve a break. Go on, my dear. I will handle it here,” Shiva added, as an afterthought.

Durga smiled devotedly at Her Lord’s paramounting love. ‘Sometimes, just sometimes, love can be obsessive,’ She thought to Herself.

***

(On the way to the Parlour) 

Durga quickly mounted on Her lion— ‘Dawon’ and teleported Herself to the parlour. She instructed Dawon to hide from the view of the dwellers and passers-by. 

On Her way, She remembered to make a quick call. ‘I’ve got to call Mahishasur and ensure he reaches Earth on time. Last time too, he made lame excuses and landed late on Earth. I can’t afford to disrupt My schedule for an insignificant Asur,’ She mumbled to Herself.

She dialled Mahishasur. His caller-tune went,

‘Sar jo tera chakraaye,

Ya dil dooba jaaye,

Aaja pyaare paas hamaare,

Kaahe ghabraaye, kaahe ghabraaye…

Maalish, Tel maalish…’

“Hello, Mahishasur here.”

“Hello, Durga this side. Looks like you have a new profession— Tel Maalish. Anyways, just called up to inform you that I will reach Earth in a couple of hours. You better reach there on time. Last time you actually arrived three days late.”

“How can You blame me Durga. The roads are so bad. Besides, the taxis in Kolkata keep cancelling rides. Even the autos in Chennai are so expensive. I can’t really afford them anymore. My extortion business is also not doing very well these days, You see. So, I have finally resorted to head massage.”

“Don’t offer your lame excuses, Asur. I’m not interested in your ways and means of sustenance. Besides, don’t talk about cab cancellations and hiked fares. I want you there on time, that’s all. I don’t care how you reach. I hope it’s clear,” Durga disconnected the call.

She was just on time at the parlour.

“Hello! Hello… Tch…tch… It’s so mean of Durga to not even understand my plight. Now, how do I handle these cab cancellations and mounting fares?” pondered Mahishasur.

Just then, Sage Naarad appeared with a modern electric guitar clapping his ‘Khartal’, descending downwards towards Mahishasur on his flying carpet.

Mahishasur was startled to see Sage Naarad who seemed to have undergone a major transformation in the last year. Exhibiting the latest Ray-Ban glasses, his wrist sported a flashing Rado— the brand new ceramic model. His iPhone looked spunky and his newest Air Pods were paired with his iPhone, that he used to play the devotional chants of Vishnu Sahasranama vide audio. The Air Pods made listening to music easier in noisy environments, and were loaded with features. Mahishasur was surely impressed.

“So, Mighty Mahishasur! Long-time buddy. How are you? Naarayan… Naarayan…”

“Aah! Revered Sage Naarad, here you are again. You look changed; for the better, of course. Trying to rub salt on my wounds again, aren’t you?”

“Come on Asur. Here I’m genuinely trying to help you and all you feel is apathy and blame. Not done; Naarayan… Naarayan…”

“Right then, if you genuinely wish to help me, please let me know how I can reach Earth from Paataal Lok on time at reasonable rates. All these taxis and autos keep cancelling rides and also charge me exorbitant rates. How do I save myself from this challenge?”

“What kind of world are you living in, Asur? Naarayan… Naarayan. Totally backdated! That’s what you are. Earth has progressed and so has technology. Simply download the Ola or Uber App on your mobile phone and book your cabs or rides instantly. Your ride will be just a single click away. Book a cab and ride to Heaven, Earth, Paataal… or whichever other place you wish to go.”

“Really, is it that simple? Didn’t know that. Let me try.”

Mahishasur downloaded the app and checked the multiple user-friendly options. No sooner than he entered the details, he got a pop up message stating that the ride was confirmed with all the driver and vehicle details. Mahishasur was ecstatic. 

“Whoa! This actually works. And I thought you were kidding me.”

“Being an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayan, this humble disciple never lies. All the best, Asur. Naarayan… Naarayan…” clapping his Khartal, Naarad beamed with pride and flew away on his carpet. 

Meanwhile, Mahishasur’s mobile rang playing the recent superhit song as his ringtone. ‘Naacho, naacho, naacho, naacho, naacho, naacho, naacho veer naacho…

Naacho, naacho, naacho, naacho, naacho, naacho, naacho, yaara naacho…’

“Hello. Who’s this? Oh! Taxi. Where to come? Okay, come to Paataal Lok, the big dungeon besides the ground where there are plenty of pot-holes.”

***
Mahishasur boarded the cab and arrived at the ‘Bagh Bazaar Durga Puja Mahotsav’ right on time. He was adorning a purple dhoti laced with gold. The yellow Angavastram covered much of his pot-belly. A garland of skulls wound in gold adorned his neck. He was as dark as the night shadows, heavily muscular and had a twirling moustache that extended until the ears on either side. The eyebrows were thick, bushy, wriggly and covered most of his forehead. He carried a gold mace that weight a hundred pounds and a crown made of bull horns embellished with precious stones and capped in gold. The most striking feature was the huge mole that stood out prominently on his left cheek— placed right below his eyes and above his moustache. His eyes wore a fierce invincible look with the blood vessels pounding crimson and he looked determined to win.

He heaved a huge sigh of relief; he was bang on time for a change. 

He located Durga, there in a corner of the mandap with Her kids and Her lion- Dawon. 

Durga’s grace never failed to impress Mahishasur. Though arch rivals, he was always fascinated by Durga’s impressive features and perfect figure. The perfection with which She wore Her sarees exuded elegance and grace. Today She was flaunting Her favourite lustrous green silk saree with an intricately gold thread embroidered upon a rich maroon border. A series of precious stone studded necklaces adorned Her neckline at different lengths covering Her entire torso. Though he liked to call Her his nemesis, he always stood flabbergasted by Her sharp features. Her doe eyes sparkled with wisdom and all-pervasiveness. Her sharp nose bridge ended perfectly at the nostrils which were accessorised with a ‘Navratna nose-pin’. A perfect pout tinted rose completed the facial features. Thick, dark tresses added to Her dignity and poise. She knew how to carry Herself with absolute refinement.

She seemed busy instructing Her kids. 

“Ganesha, You stand there and don’t move around. You will surely get lost in this crowd. Karthik, don’t play with your spear. It might hurt some random passer-by. We can’t afford to hurt devotees, can we? Lokkhi, adjust your jewellery and accessories right. And stay away from the kids; we don’t want another broken piece of jewellery like the last time when a little imp pounced on your new neckpiece. Sarah, ensure all the strings of your electric Veena are working well. Plug them to the electrical point in the corner there. Practice and rehearse for your final performance on Vijayadashami at…” She paused as Her eyes fell on Her adversary, Mahishasur.

“Oh! Barbaric Mahishasur. Here you are. What a pleasant surprise? Good to see you well in time. Welcome, welcome. Hope you are all set for the duel again this year,” She mocked. 

“I’ve been preparing all year long for this day Durga. Can’t wait for the grand finale. I’m all set to win and thrive this time at least.”

“Really? How I would looooooovvve to see that happen, you naive Asur. Well, before I forget, I have some really important instructions for you. You will stay put here and care for the kids while I take a tour around the rest of India visiting My relatives and friends.

“While My able kids don’t need your care, I still suggest you don’t act funny with them lest they bang you on the head like the last time and set you straight. Also, don’t even think of taking any breaks or moving out of the mandap. I will be back here on Ashtami evening for the ‘Anjali’ and ‘Dhunochi’. We can then begin our duel on Nobomi.”

Durga then turned her attention back to her children.

“Children, you all can have fun at the pandal until Ashtami. Eat, play, sleep, and have fun. Just don’t wander about because the pandal is a much safer bet as compared to the streets outside. I’m sure you will be pampered well and there will be no dearth in variety or quantity of food available here. Dawon will be here with you as your guardian. Have got to go, for time is short and the places to visit are too many. But I promise I will be back soon. Also, you can call Me anytime on My mobile. Will be available full time. Since you do not have a mobile, you can feel free to borrow it from this Asur uncle. Treat him well… for he is on a count down and his days are numbered.”

Saying so, Durga teleported Herself to the South of India. That is where She loved to start Her trips. She couldn’t wait to start relishing upon the delicious Sundal, Pongal and sweets prepared exclusively for Her every morning and evening during these Navratri pooja days.

After her trip down south, She also had to cover the west before She headed back to the east. Three to four days in each zone wasn’t enough time. The itinerary was hectic but worth the effort. How she adored the Golus of the south, the Garba and Dandiya of the west and, of course, the burning of effigies in the north. She reminded Herself that a visit up north was due after the assassination of the demon Mahishasur for the Ram-Leela gatherings on Dashami.

***
(Ashtami evening)

An old, haggard and skinny looking pandit with a shiny, bald head was seated up on the stage ready to start the Anjali ceremony. The most striking feature of the pandit were the long strands of hair that emerged from his ears and nostrils. What his head lacked, the auricles and nares compensated for. 

His frail form could not even hold his loose dhoti firmly upon his waist line. He was constantly adjusting his waistline in the fear of the dhoti loosening and falling off. The only piece of clothing that covered his bony form sans error was a pale, muslin kurta covering his modest body. 

Durga arrived just on time and entered into the man-made sculpture placed atop the mandap.

The kids were euphoric to have momma back and were jumping with joy. Durga quickly shushed them and Soulfully hugged and kissed them. She had gathered quite a few memorabilia from her visits and promised to share them with the kids soon. But now, it was time to focus on the ‘Anjali’ ritual. 

The feeble pandit started chanting his mantras into a mike placed at the centre of the stage. 

‘Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu, Shaanti Rupena Samsthita,

Namastasmai, Namastasmai, Namastasmai Namo Namah…

Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu…’

Durga felt embraced by the love, hospitality and warmth showered upon Her and the kids. Despite the modernisation, Indians still had their devotion rooted well. The visit every single year was worthy of celebration. She slid into a deep trance and meditated for a peaceful world full of gratitude, love, prosperity and goodness.

Mahishasur, on the other hand, snored away to glory.

A grand bhog of Khichdi, Paanch-mishali, Mochaar-chap, Boda and Payesh was served. Everyone ate with utmost contentment. The popular ‘Dhunochi Naach’ followed this delectable meal. It was an evening filled with grandeur.

The next morning, Durga was up and ready on time; much before sunrise. The duel was about to begin. She flaunted Her finest jewellery from P.C.Chandra’s latest gold collection and a bright ruby-red saree with heavy gold butta prints and a thick gold embroidered border. She appeared as a resplendent beauty purely bestowing divine grace and love. 

Durga, The Divine Mother Goddess stood there in the open ground under an ornate umbrella, waiting for Mahishasur. 

The Asur woke up with a start in the early morning hours and found that Durga wasn’t there in the mandap at all. He realised that he was late and quickly completed his morning ablutions. 

He then came rushing to the ground at full pace, flaunting his mace above his shoulders. His right leg got stuck in one of the pits on the open ground. 

“Aaaaaah! What a terrible start to the day. Here I come with utmost confidence with the motive of defeating Durga and the first thing I encounter is an accident.”

Seeing Mahishasur struggling, Durga threw away her embellished umbrella allowing the morning sun-rays to glisten upon her delicate feminine form. The sheen and glow emanating from her entire frame, complete with the jewellery and gold embroidery blinded Mahishasur.  

“Aaarrrrrrgggghhh! I can’t see anything. You are blinding me, Durga. This is cheating,” he called out.

“Residing amidst the inmates of Earth has taught me a few tricks. Cheating is the new norm. Accept it.”

“No, I don’t. I’d rather leave,” he complained.

He got up with great struggle and a pronounced limp to leave, but found himself surrounded by huge boundary walls. 

“Oh! So, now you have arranged to build high walls to prevent me from escaping. I don’t care, for I have my mace,” he displayed ostentatiously. 

He gathered full speed and banged the wall with full force. The earth vibrated; Mahishasur was pushed back in full force and he fell to the ground, shuddering. 

“What? Even my mace is unable to break open this wall. What is it made of?”

“Hahaha! This is the latest quality of walls made of ‘Star Cement’- the strongest in the world of construction.”

Before Mahishasur could reflect, Durga, stabbed his chest with her Trishul in full force. Blood spurted and spilled over. The thirst for revenge was quenched; the fire of anger now doused. 

“This year… despite my preparations… you still win. I still refuse to give up Durga. Next year, I will secure and set the seal on my win.”

“Who has seen next year, Asur? You lose yet again, not because you lack power. It’s because you lack empathy, care and forgiveness. Mend your ways,” Durga said as she turned her back to drop a small bomb on the Asur waiting on the death floor. The bomb exploded and turned Mahishasur into a pile of ashes. 

Durga emerged victorious yet again. The kids watched the scene from the mandap and were overjoyed over their momma’s stupendous triumph. 

Post the Nobomi aarti, the family headed off to Delhi for the ‘Ram-Leela’ gatherings on Red Fort grounds. 

Durga was jubilant when she noticed Her beloved Swami awaiting her arrival at the main entrance.

“Congratulations Priye! You did it, yet again,” as He embraced His beloved Durga’s slender form with His muscular arms. 

It was a cheery ending, yet again. Shiva felt relieved to unite back with His energetic half, Durga to merge together as one power, the Ultimate Ardhanareeshwar.

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Glossary:
* Kailash- reside abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga/Parvati
* Dhoop- benzoin resin— taken from a tree that is dried, powdered and sold as a powder or in blocks, used as incense.
* Mayka- maternal home
* Kadais – metal cauldrons
* Swami- revered Lord
* Sundal- a dry, spicy dish made of legumes or grams, garnished with coconut.
* Pongal – a rice and pulse delicacy with mild spices— usually a one-pot meal. 
* Khichdi- a mix veggies with rice and pulse delicacy, mildly spiced and served as a one pot meal in West Bengal.
* Paayesh- a sweetened thick rice pudding cooked in milk and flavoured with roasted nuts, saffron and cardamom
* Mahadev – Lord of the Lords (another name for Lord Shiva)
* Mahishasur – a bovine Asura 
* Tel Maalish – oil massage 
* Asur- demon
* Khartal- an ancient instrument mainly used in devotional / folk songs. It has derived its name from Sanskrit words ‘kara’ meaning hand and ‘tala’ meaning clapping
* Vishnu Sahasranama- a powerful mantra with the thousand names of Lord Vishnu
* Paataal Lok- underground world believed to be dominated and inhabited by lowly forms including demons and devils
* Angavastram – a shoulder cloth or stole worn by men in India, especially in Maharashtra and South India.
* Navartna- nine precious stones
* Lokkhi- the name of Goddess Lakshmi as addressed in East India
* Sarah- short for Goddess Saraswathi
*Anjali- floral offering to the Goddess
* Dhunochi- a dance whilst holding Dhoop containers in both hands performed by seasoned and trained artists in East India (West Bengal).
* Ashtami- eighth day of Navratri (or from the waxing or waning moon) 
* Nobomi- ninth day of Navratri (or from the waxing or waning moon) 
* Golu – steps decorated with dolls and decorative items on the occasion of Navratri in South India
* Garba and dandiya – dance forms in western India normally done during Navratri
* Ram-Leela gatherings – burning of demonic effigies in open grounds signifying the destruction of evil
* Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu, Shaanti Rupena Samsthita,
Namastasmai, Namastasmai, Namastasmai Namo Namah- Goddess Durga is omnipresent one. She is the personification of the Universal Mother. She is the embodiment of tranquil peace in all beings. I worship her with all devotion so that she blesses me with happiness and prosperity.
* Paanch-mishali – a mix veggies preparation with mild spices served with Khichdi in East India
* Mochaar-chap – a fried patty made from banana flowers mixed with spices
* Boda- a fried snack
* Trishul- Trident used as a weapon
* Priye- beloved
* Ardhanareeshwar – the merging of the masculine and feminine polarities as one creating the Cosmic whole.

Author’s note:
The above story is written with an intention to lighten hearts and not hurt the religious sentiments of people. Kindly read the story purely as a means of entertainment only. Capitalisation is used to refer to the pronouns addressing the God/Goddess. Also, though there are several company brands that are named, there is absolutely no intention of advertising or promoting them by any means.

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