VALLEY OF THE KINGS: THE 18TH DYNASTY
VALLEY OF THE KINGS: THE 18TH DYNASTY
No one is untouched by love, not even devas and asuras, kings and nymphs. And when they face life’s unexpected tribulations, their love also undergoes trials. Read how Ganesha took myriad forms to please Riddhi, Siddhi and Buddhi, how Ravana shared an unbreakable bond with his true love, Mandodari and how Nala and Damayanti’s relationship was tested till almost nothing remained.Tormented by passion, wracked by betrayal, torn by the agony of separation, love in its many splendored forms is the origin of these incredibly endearing stories of Prem Purana.
“I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could” – Georgia O’Keeffe.A serial killer on the loose who chooses a particular day of the month to kill his victims; a strained father-son relationship, when the father returns home after being presumed dead; a girl who can go to any extent for her career and money; a woman openly acknowledging the presence of the many ‘other women’ in her life; a lady’s dark past finally catches up with her… Life is an ongoing sequence of events meshed with everyday mundaneness so that it becomes difficult to isolate them.
‘Fragments’ captures the essence of those parts of our lives that we are not proud to show to others. It takes you through a range of emotions and leaves a big question mark on what is supposed to be.
Strong female characters are something I relate to very closely. Perhaps, it was the result of having everyday ‘wonder women’ around me :). My mother, aunts, grandmothers, each of them left their influence on me in the way they handled tough situations. Each of them had their own unique strengths that made me stop and wonder as a child, as an adolescent and as a woman.
My first brush with strong voiced women in our scriptures was when I chanced to read about the true Shakuntala and Savitri from KM Ganguli’s unabridged Mahabharata. The popular narratives in Cinema as well as reinterpretations had made both these women appear much softer than they actually were! That was when I began to explore the unabridged texts and dwelt more on the feminine side of our ancient past cautiously disregarding the medieval and modern interpretations. These were the women who created history and the more I read, the more I realised that the conventional medieval/modern versions, burdened with eighteenth century baggage did very less justice to what they truly stood for.
Abhaya was a creative character that I imagined as one of the 16,100 women believed to be imprisoned by Narakasura. I could not picture any of them as mute dependants of Lord Krishna. As a result, Abhaya developed as a strong personal mirror image of my own curiosity about the times of Mahabharata. Her adventures and love for Krishna aside, she represented an evolving woman of those times whose world view and ideals shaped up as a result of continuous inquiry and discovery instead of static ideals.
Avishi on the other hand was a discovery I made while trying to work on a minor scene of Abhaya that sought to highlight a female warrior to inspire my protagonist. Vishpala, the Rig Vedic female warrior who was the basis of Avishi opened a more intriguing world of gender parity in my journey. She belonged to an age where gender biases were unheard of and presence of women was pervasive in all spheres of life from combative sciences to contemplative philosophy.
If I were to see the common strengths in both my protagonists as well as in other heroines of our past, their feminine strength was strongly coupled with their larger role. Both believe in going beyond just asking ‘tough questions’ and finding the solution (and thereby starting a new journey of discovery altogether). This rooted inclusivity in their thought process sets them apart from the conventional modern heroines.
The classroom was in chaos when I entered. It looked like a mini battlefield of little soldiers bombarding each other with paper balls and paper planes. Before I could get a grip on the situation blackness seemed to engulf the scene before me, revealing another scene, hazy, like a dusty video film taking me to a different world where no colours existed except shades of grey; a classroom with empty first rows, far off, images of children yelling and flying airplanes… A wave of sadness crept in, a feeling of hollowness. Amid this chaos? Wasn’t it strange? Were these the same children who had forced their way into my thoughts when I was in the park? Were these known faces? Before I could become a part of the unreal the clamour faded as a strict commanding voice pierced through the din.
“Yes ma’m,” I said.
The scene dissolved and I found Simin staring at me in disbelief. “What happened?” she asked with a puzzled expression.
My head was spinning.
“Nothing, I thought you called me.” I said.
“I called Pranil. But what happened to you? You stood with your eyes shut. You ok?”
Oh, so that was her voice. Then why did I hear another voice, something from a distant, hazy corner of my mind? Or was it solely my imagination? Or a moment when imagination collided with reality?
“Yeah, am absolutely fine.” I said, looking away, not meeting her eyes.
“Pranil, I need to talk to you. Please come to my cabin after your prayers are over.” Simin said.
“Yes, ma’m.” The voice came from the last bench, from a boy with dishevelled hair, dark brown eyes and a dark complexion.
The dizziness made me uneasy and I couldn’t contribute much to the class that day. I walked to Simin’s cabin after the session.
I was not sure how I would collect the information. I wasn’t even sure what information I wanted. As soon as Simin saw me she started discussing a few things she wanted me to do.
“Noel, will you be able to go to… she paused. “You look disturbed. Are you ok?”
“You can tell me if anything is bothering you.”
“The boy you wanted to meet in the morning.” Not sure what was stopping me from speaking out his name.
“Yes.” I paused. “Pranil.” I tried hard to keep my voice steady.
“What about him?”
“Can you tell me something about him?”
“Like what?” She disconnected her phone that had just started ringing.
“Like…like…how old is he? Since when has he been here? Why did his parents leave him? Anything.”
“Anything. Hmmm.” She thought for a while. “Pranil is about 10 years old, he has been here since the last four years. His father died and his mother, who was a house maid, wanted to re-marry. The man she wanted to marry was not ready to accept responsibility of a son, therefore she left him here. But why are you asking all this?” She again silenced her beeping phone.
“I think I know him. Or someone by that name… or… or…” I didn’t know how to explain something I was still struggling to understand. I didn’t want her to disconnect her phone for the third time for my silly questions so I left the room leaving her gaping at me.
Later in the day I met Pranil. He was painting something when I reached him.
“Hello Pranil, can I sit here?”
“What are you doing?” I asked him.
“I am drawing a house.” He showed me the few scribbled lines in his notebook.
“Wow! This is a very good drawing.”
He smiled shyly.
I expected some connection to my foggy feelings as I talked to him. But no snapshots, no voices, no images followed. As if he was not the Pranil who played in my mind, the Pranil in my mysterious imagination was someone else, someone close to me yet far away, someone known to me yet a stranger. Something in my own self was unknown to me, an enigma and it was a terribly uncomfortable feeling. I just wanted to drag out the stranger from me but every time I tried the stranger gripped me tighter as if slowly becoming an inseparable part of me like my blood and my veins.