Song of Kali

“Some places are too evil to be allowed to exist”-with this ominous line begins the story of Robert Luczak in the dark novel called ‘Song of Kali’ by Dan Simmons published nearly 28 years ago in 1985. I admit that I have read just one other book by Dan Simmons and while I am not a fan, I found the premise of this book very intriguing. The story is about an American poet who travels to Calcutta, India to interview a famous poet who has surfaced back after missing for 8 years. He takes his Indian wife and child along on the short trip. The events that follow in Calcutta disillusion him to the extent that he dreams of nuclear annihilation wiping away entire Calcutta.

While Dan Simmons has woven a very fast paced story, as a Hindu I was seriously offended by some of the aspects of his narration. One of the main issues with the story is the portrayal of Goddess Kali in such a negative light. The story mentions Robert Luczak is knowledgeable about Rabindranath Tagore, his poems, and other aspects of Indian mythology. So there was no reason to believe that he did not have a deeper understanding about Goddess Kali. Kali is a multi-faceted goddess with the combined powers of all the other gods. She is supposed to be the destroyer of evil and Lord Shiva’s partner. She is sometimes Durga, sometimes Parvati and sometimes Chamunda. It was blatantly wrong to forget all the aspects of the Goddess and label her as the evil ‘bitch goddess Kali’. My other problem with the book was I couldn’t find any motive for everything that had happened to Robert Luczak. From the beginning to the end it seemed as if the guy was a pawn of some elaborate game plan. If anyone reads this book and understands the motive please explain it to me!

But despite all this, I would still give the book 3 stars for its sheer grittiness, and it’s insight into the dark human psyche. Towards the end the book completely redeemed itself. 28 years ago when the book was published, the author felt that the world had gone crazy and dark and that is true more so ever today. With kids being murdered in their classrooms, to the Middle East crisis which seem to escalate every day, to the religious fanatics who want to kill everyone it does seem that the ‘Age of Kali’ has began and that the end will not be pretty. The most profound thing that I read in the book was comparison of the darkness of human psyche to the black holes. In the black hole, time, mass and space have no meaning similarly, in this age the human inhumanness seems equally senseless. This book isn’t meant for the soft-hearted and for those who see life with rosy glasses. Yes, it is very dark it’s one of those books which stay with you after you are done with it. One of those that keep you awake at night.

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Ignominy!

 

The rape of a 23-year old girl took India by storm last month. It is quite sad that it took a young woman to brutally die for people to finally realize the gravity of this crime. These rapes have been happening in Delhi with consistent regularity for a long time now. They don’t call it the “rape capital” of India for nothing. But the worst is that the great leaders of our great country are adding insult to the injury by blaming the victim for inviting the crime. From one politician calling women “dented and painted” to some other minister advising women to not cross the “LAKSHMAN REKHA”, the gaffes by our leaders are nothing short of amazing. Not to forget the BJP minister who said that the foreign culture aped by women in India is a disaster for the country. The ironical fact is that this guy is the urban administration and development minister!!

Right from blaming the way the victim is dressed to the fact the victim is alone, all the blame is put squarely on the shoulders of the victim. Of course women dress provocatively every morning with the sole purpose of attracting attention on themselves so that they can get raped!!  While some old guy says that women who dance in discos and drink liquor have no right to hold vigils, another guy says that women who wear tight t-shirts and jeans are destroying our Indian culture. It’s amazing how the responsibility of upholding the sanctity of Indian culture is always a woman’s responsibility. While the men can go around being Duhshashans of the 21st century, the woman has to be Sita and continue to do what she is told to do, as doing otherwise will destroy her culture. Because of course Sita was kidnapped because she crossed the Lakshman Rekha! But what did Draupadi do wrong? She was in her room, draped in a saree and generally minding her own business. But she was pulled out of her house and gang molested by her brother-in-law. Not just that, the so called protectors of her virtue were sitting right there, and she had not one but 5 husbands! You would think having five husbands would make her untouchable by other men…but….! When they want Indian women to behave as per her culture, why not ask men to behave with the same code of conduct.  In India we have a gazillion goddesses, so why not think for a second before defiling her.

There is no justification for such a heinous act. And while there is all this hoopala surrounding this one case, there are so many other women out there who are suffering silently. Some women suffering out on the street, some in moving vehicles while coming from work and some in their own houses.  In fact most of the rapes that happen in the house go completely undocumented. After all how many women are willing to file a case against their husbands? Yes, in a marriage too, when a woman says no, it is considered a rape. It makes me wonder which part of N-O don’t the men understand. Doesn’t matter what signals you think you get from her behavior, or from her dress, when a woman says NO it means NO !

Instead of being more liberating as we develop, the Indian society is becoming more regressive. The whole notion of “yeh sab paap hai” is amazingly ingrained in Indian psyche, with sex being a taboo but obviously not rape! With this mentality one would think the 2 billion+ Indian population was found under cabbage patches!  While the rapes happen in western nations as well, the idea of blaming the victim and her lack of culture is what makes the acts in India more shameful.

Even with all this, ladies we have to live with some precautions, until the men climb higher up the evolutionary ladder. Upholding our Indian culture is not just the woman’s job, it is responsibility of both men AND women. While we teach our young girls to be a little more careful about their surroundings and the people they meet, why don’t we teach our young men to be more respectful with the opposite sex. Why don’t we teach our young boys that a woman is a mother/sister/friend/daughter/wife/human being, she’s not a toy to be played with just because he wants and just because he is in a mood. Why don’t we teach the young boys not to rape?