The other day someone asked my idea of a perfect man - you know the kind you can take home. I promptly said: "I will take Lord Shiva over any human or God." There has been an unseasonable spike in the interest in Shiva lately. Blogs, neo-philosophers reinterpreting mythology and the Puranas, pulp mythology, television serials in various regional languages, et al. The recent being fellow journalist Ravi Etteth's The Book of Shiva (Harper Collins), which makes a different read. Hence, my answer was probably a top-of-the-mind reaction.
Despite not being religious within its conventional definition, Shiva has always been a person of interest. He keeps popping up in my research for a spiritual answer to those boring existential questions. Often, the answers are too complex or simple, the dreadful ones are those from self-anointed gurus.
|And that irreplaceable quality: a good husband and father.
That's probably why I find Shiva the appropriate companion to my quest. He has an easy attitude to life and manages to find simple solutions to complex problems. Of course, he is deliciously good-looking, loves his "me" time (so do I) and enjoys travelling. And that irreplaceable quality: a good husband and father.
What makes Shiva crush-worthy is the way he balances work and home - a tough one I presume given much of his decisions could affect life and death.
In a way, he is the COO of the universe. Imagine what Steve Jobs was to Apple. Shiva's job demands smart and cunning managerial skills to handle the petty cosmic politics. After all, dealing with the all-powerful Vishnu; Brahma who has his own psychological Electra complex to deal with, listening to that irritating gossip-mongering snitch Narada couldn't be easy. And there are all those Asuras and Devas who come knocking at the slightest of trouble.
A thorough professional, Shiva recruited an eclectic team of goblins, bovines, reptiles, demons and demi-gods without prejudice of race, colour or creed to help him with is work. Alongside this all-consuming job, he finds time for family and a beautiful home in the mountains, though the young and playful Paravati can be rather demanding compared to his first self-sacrificing wife Sati. The kids are a handful at times too. The older one Kartikeya who killed the evil Tarakasur is sober compared to the naughty and impulsive Ganesha, who almost killed his dad for disturbing his mother's bathing ritual.
Of course, in the scriptures, Rama is the perfect avatar of man. I am not so sure. He was at best a coward who fell for gossip and overcompensated for it by bidding every silly demand his parents made of him, even though he knew they were wrong. That makes a foolish man not a braveheart. Would you really test your wife's virginity based on local gossip?
It was Shiva who really ended up being the man of the house.
He had his job cut out for him. One, keep the cosmic politics under control, keep a team that often runs amok. Two, whenever there is a crisis, all the Devas and Asuras turn to him for solution, especially the most insecure, power-crazed of them all, Indra. The minute he feels his "position" is threatened Indra would come up with some contrived idea to snuff it out, leaving Shiva to clear the mess.
Had Indra not been such an idiot, we would never have had Ram or Ramayana. The fool resented the growing popularity and power of Ravana, the King of Lanka. Ravana was educated, had a sense of justice, and looked after his people. A perfect leader who could tilt the elections if Indra and he were put to contest. Indra hated the relationship between Shiva and Ravana, a friendship that grew out of an arrogant act by Ravana.
One day, when Shiva was enjoying his "me" time, Parvati wanted to play, but was dismissed. She threw a tantrum and sulked behind a tree. Around the time, Ravana was taking a joyride in his Pushpak Viman and came across a mountain. Not realising it was Shiva's home, he moved it to make way for his aircraft.
The mountain shook bringing Parvati running scared into the arms of Shiva. Ravana realised his folly and apologised. Shiva said, "You brought the love of my life back into my arms. How can I help you?". The cunning bloke asked for immortality. He asked that he be not killed by any Asura or Deva. His wish was granted. Heaven shook. Vishnu knew what that meant, another reincarnation. Welcome Ramayana.
But for Shiva, all that mattered at the moment was that Parvati was safe and the person responsible for it was thanked. The love for his family was non-negotiable even if it meant the end of the world as we know it, especially after having loved and lost once.
Shiva's first marriage with Sati ended tragically as Sati's father Daksha suffered the father of the bride syndrome. Shiva, despite his good looks and toned body, was not vain. He met the father of the bride in his dreadlocks and casuals, along with his 'weird' friends. Sati's father and his rich friends mocked him.
Shiva walked out. Sati followed. A few months later, Sati insisted that her father invite her husband to the grand party he was throwing. He refused. But Shiva's love for Sati was such that he arrived (no tuxedos) just as he was, uninvited. He was humiliated again and Sati jumped into the bonfire and killed herself.
Heartbroken, Shiva ran across forests and mountains (it is said the Rudraksha seeds are Shiva's teardrops) till no one could find him.The loss of the love of your life can only be understood by someone who has gone through it. Time does not heal the hole in the heart.
Vishnu realised that Shiva was was having a nervous breakdown. He needed Shiva to face reality who had begun to distance himself from his friends. Even his trusted companion Nandi, the cow, was worried at the rate Shiva was slipping into substance abuse and punishing himself for Sati's suicide. And like most addicts and depressives, Shiva was refusing help.
That's when Indra came up with one of his bright ideas. Of course he had an agenda. Indra and the gods were suffering at the hands of the demon Tarakasur, who could be defeated only by Shiva's son. Brahma wrote the rest of the script. He asked Parvati, daughter of Himvat, the King of the mountains, to woo Shiva.
The problem was Shiva would not give a second look at Parvati. So Indra recruited the most popular dating agency of the time - Kamadeva & Rati Inc. They created an untimely spring, which brought Shiva out of his den. Kama fired the arrow, and was promptly punished for it. But the love potion had taken its effect. Shiva fell in love with Parvati. Kartikeya was born. Mission accomplished.
The world was beginning to make sense again.
Is Shiva the perfect man? I don't know. He loved his wife and children and was a good professional with a kind heart. But yes, he had his little secrets. He kept the gorgeous Ganga in his dreadlocks hidden from Parvati. May be they were "good friends" or genuinely working together to prevent the Earth from being flooded by Bhagirath. That's his secret to tell. We tell ours.
This is what makes Shiva, the Maha Yogi, both man and God, all at the same time. The toughest part of life is to hit rock bottom, when you see nothing but darkness and yet life forces you to go on. But the tougher part is to hit that rock bottom and claw out of it. Many of us relate to His struggle. That's what makes us mortals man and God, as much as Shiva is. And probably why we see more of him now.