Indian mythology has always been of great interest and a subject of fascination for me. Stories that my grandfather used to tell me when I was younger intrigued me so much that I ended up asking him loads and loads of questions, which he answered and ultimately shooed me off when I overdid. With the Indian markets swarming with authors’ takes on the ocean of content that the mythology is, one can never be sure of what to expect. Debutantes and experienced alike, authors are writing about it left, right, and center. And there seems to be no end. It’s overwhelming. Literally. Having read a couple of masterpieces by a few authors around this subject, I was not very keen on engaging with it soon. But, Amazon will never seize to lure. As a prime member, I downloaded Anand Neelakantan’s Ravana’s Sister Meenakshi and found it to be extremely short, shorter than a short story, and read it in flat 15 minutes!
Having endured years and years of ridicule and pain, Soorpanakha, the ugly one, roams around the streets of Ayodhya, which is about to witness a shameful act by none other than the God-King himself. The Queen is being abandoned. Her fault, she doesn’t seem as pious as she was, to a mere washerman, mind you, after being rescued from the clutches of Ravana.
Coming face to face with the man she dared love and declare it openly to him on his way to do his brother’s bidding, Soorpanakha, once the beautiful Meenakshi, feels the same passion as she did all those years ago. Sita, seeing the woman who started it all, and Meenakshi, seeing the woman who ended it all, bond over the things that had happened before the beautiful one is taken away to live her remaining days ingloriously.
A few months ago, I had read another short story which had and an episode of Sita and Meenakshi bonding after the former takes refuge in the hermitage of a sage when her husband abandons her. This story and that story draw parallels, though the main difference is the central character, Sita in that, Meenakshi in this. In simple language, the author sends out a strong message. My review for this story might be a little repetitive, and short since I have already written so much on this subject.
Meenakshi, wise from her years of suffering has something for Sita, advice, that abandoning can be done to only those who have been possessed, which Sita never was. Despite the fact that a woman belongs to her husband after her marriage is in no way a contract of his superiority over her and crying over his foolishness of leaving her is of no use. Instead, finding oneself free of all the boundations that come along with being at a position that is always under public scrutiny is liberating. And knowing that flowers will still be fragrant, and Sita can smell them should be a good reason enough to be grateful.
Meenakshi’s portrayal is beautiful. The strength that she has, the passion that she holds and the goodness that she sees in the world is commendable. Forgiving one’s tormentor/abuser is not easy, let alone not speaking ill of them, and to move on with grace is beyond question for someone who has been through so much as her. I don’t know if this lady was actually a demoness or just a mere woman who fell in love with a married man. I don’t know if she was manipulative, or just a puppet at the hands of her brother. I don’t know if she was beautiful on the inside, or was made ugly when her nose, ears, and breasts were cut off. What I know is that I respect this woman, and feel bad that there isn’t much written about her after that fateful day which resulted in the annihilation of an entire family.
The Almighty made the woman multifaceted and instilled within her power so strong that no other living being could carry it. Her versatility, the seamless transition from the motherly Parvati to the vanquisher Durga to the annihilator Kali, gives her strength to endure what comes her way. I was always saddened when I was stopped/couldn’t do something as a young girl, which the boys got away with easily. I did not know then what it meant to be a woman but am wiser now. And I am proud that I took birth as a woman, to a woman who herself is a lioness.