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Ganga: The Constant Goddess blends mythology with contemporary sensibilities to create a protagonist that feels very real to the reader.
‘Parvati’, in the book Karthikeya, burnt bright in my memory for a very long time even after I had finished the book. The glimpses of her strength come back to me even now. Anuja Chandramouli, for me, had created a brilliantly inspirational POV of a woman who had taken the angriest, most destructive man as her husband.
So when I took up Ganga: The Constant Goddess, I had similar expectations and Anuja didn’t disappoint at all.
A society picks up almost everything from its mythology, and there is no question that women’s narratives are sidelined, and are mostly a third person account. So, if you look at it, the ones being written now are pretty fresh perspectives, and how good are they!
The language is smooth. It doesn’t seem forced anywhere. The blend of mythology with contemporary terms is seamless, and not jarring like it was for me in some other mythological retellings that I do not wish to name. The treatment here is raw, yet relatable, and there is a lot of social commentary interspersed with philosophical musings.
The book does follow a chronology but it takes Ganga-like leaps for obvious reasons. One has to depict Ganga in all her forms, and for that there are reincarnations that have to be looked at. At such times, there is a risk that the leaps can look tangled and the narrative can fall on the face with disjointed anecdotes. But the author manages to balance the fine line quite efficiently.
There are some really intriguing parts that throw a completely different light on the women of our mythology. Endearing exchanges between Ganga and Vishnu, their light hearted banter, the teasing and fighting, and the fact that not once does she let him walk all over her, for me were such shining points. We get to see a story where the goddesses have each other’s backs, are strong and assertive, intelligent and collected, where both Ganga and Saraswati have vehement disagreements with each other at times, and yet stand up for each other when the other is put down simply for being a woman by one of the arrogant Gods. Some comebacks are witty and quotable. At a point their friendship brought tears to my eyes, because it reminded me of my sisterhood. While they fought with each other over principles, they remained fiercely strong and protective about each other.
Ganga is rebellious, but isn’t idealistic. Her understanding of morals is different and she comes from a very confident, proud place. This pride in who she is, is misinterpreted as arrogance; and who are we fooling? That’s how it has been since centuries in our world.
She takes practical stances most of the times. But she is also flawed as a woman and as a mother. There are situations when she allows maternal love to take precedence over womanhood and there are times when she falls very weak. So even if as a character she may look pretty haughty and straightforward, the author has managed to retain her complexities. It’s as if the writer wanted to reflect the dilemmas of contemporary feminists in terms of learning and unlearning as a process, and raising men and women to fight social conditioning.
I will suggest Ganga as well as the author’s previous one, Karthikeya, to anyone who likes having an objective perspective on our age old myths.
I see this as a revolution of sorts, and we must make the most of it while we are here.
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Top image via Pixabay and book cover via Amazon
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