Kali, the Mother

The terror and the fury

Of sickle and scythe –

Weapons of death and destruction

Dancing in her hands

Her bare breasts covered with blood

Still dripping from the severed head that she carries in her hand –

What terror she must infuse in the evil minds of evil men?

She annihilates the past, the present and the future,

As the presiding deity of Kala, time;

Her formless form pervades infinity,

Devouring the maya of time and space,

astride on the wings of Infinite knowledge;

In primal purity she stands, wearing nothing but

The fundamental elements of nature as her clothes;

Lord Shiva had to hurl himself on the ground

To stop her from destroying all creation

In mock regret she bites the tongue,

When her feet touches her lord’s inert body on the ground

What an excuse for the Shiva – Sakthi leela?

Fifty skulls adorn her neck

One for each character of the Sanskrit vowel, claim scholars

As if she belongs to a language!

Even if Sanskrit is heavenly, is she not the mother of the universe?

The mother of all, wicked or wise, weak or strong;

Her heart melts to true devotion, uncoated with egoistic and educated theology

Ferocious she may be,

She is still the loving mother of the world;

For all her ferocity, for all her intolerance of evil, and for all her Motherly Love,

She ever remains the Mystic Mother of the Cosmic Universe….

And yet, men paint her black and call her Kali.

( Navratri just got over. These days, the true meaning of Navratri celebrations is being lost in the commercial sellout of the festival. Hopefully, the real meaning will resurface after some westerner publishes a book about Indian festivals and their meanings……)

Note : The father aspect of God, the Father, and the mother aspect of God, the Mother, are two interesting concepts of Indian/Hindu faith. In this, the mother aspect of Kali, is most misunderstood as a primitive God, wanting sacrifices. On the contrary, we find great poets like Bharathi, Aurobindo, Tagore, Ramprasad Sen, Kamalakanta Chakravarti, Trailokyanath Sanyal, Kalidas, and Kazi Nazrul Islam inspired by the notion of the mother aspect of God, as MAA KAALI, or simply, MAA. To the Great Mother of this Cosmic Universe, the true symbol of feminine godliness, I humbly submit this poem.

Saying it when it matters…..

For more than forty years she had taken care of me, and not once had I said that I loved her. In our family, we don’t easily tell things like that. It is always in the background, and it is best left unsaid. We are not a very expressive family, and I have not hugged her much. Some years back when I hugged her on impulse, she said she felt good. From then on, I have been hugging her every time I met her.

My father was a very straightforward man, and very little money was there to take care of us eight children. She was always careful that no food gets wasted. Feeding a large family of 10 was no mean business, but she always managed to feed everyone without complaints. In fact, there were times when we had jokingly called her “Jesus” for her ability to feed the entire family with very little food, like some fish curry and a loaf of bread. She used to make small dishes out of leftovers. One of her favourite leftover dishes was the “paniyaram” – the bananas which go very ripe that they can’t be eaten, she used to mash them into a pulp, add a bit of sugar, salt and mix it with atta and fry them as doughnuts – It became a favourite dish between me and her, and since I was her last child, she always made it even with fresh bananas, just because I liked the paniyarams.

She was a pure vegetarian, but she always made very good Non-veg dishes for all of us. On my birthday, invariably she will send my elder brother Sharo to get crabs – for she knew I loved crabs. Only she could cook the crabs that way. I have traveled a lot in the last two decades to various parts of the country, but have never got to taste crab the way she used to make it.

When my father died, she took over the mantle of the head of the house without much ado, and did what was necessary. For more than 25 years, she never forgot even one Ammavasai day. Every Ammavasai day, she will make pumpkin, drumstick leaves or agathi keerai, and offer them to the picture of my father kept in the puja room. She will fast that day and will only eat a small portion of the prasad. All of us children will line up to pray and receive the prasad, a hand mixed mixture of all the rice and side dish that was offered. That prasad always used to taste different. Many a time, we children have tried the combination – But the taste of her hand mixed prasad always eluded us.

20 years back, when I joined Railways, I was feeling lost being in a large organization like Railways. I wrote to her that I felt “lost”. She sent me a card, of a picture of a wooded forest, with the words, “Sometimes if you don’t get lost, there’s a chance that you may never find your way” – That card adorned my table for many years till it got tattered.

All these memories came flashing as I raced to towards Chennai, as soon as I received the news that she was admitted in the hospital and that her condition was serious. At the hospital, I saw her connected with so many tubes and instruments. She was happy to know that I had come. She stayed in the hospital for a week and died. Just the day before she died, afraid that we were losing her, I held her hand, and told her, “Ma, I want you to know that we all love you very much” – She looked at me, her eyes moistened, and she said, “Yes, I know. That is why all of you are taking such good care of me”

Now, it is more than three years since she died, and I am ever grateful to God for having given me the opportunity to say that we loved her….. Every now and then, whenever I miss her too much, I remember that day of having told her that we love her, and that gives some relief. Saying it when it matters has become a very important thing to me now.