“I am Saraswati!” she declared, “The Hindu Goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, and learning”. Her skin dazzlingly white, her eyes deep dark pools of serenity, and her hair curled to perfection and cascading beneath her shoulders like a stream of rapids, glowed for a few seconds as she spoke. As if reverberating with piousness.
“And who are you?” she asked, almost as an afterthought, with her lips bearing almost no pretence of hiding the amusement rippling across the surface of her erstwhile calm face.
“Why, I am Athena of course!” she answered back smiling, “the Greek Goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, law and justice, strength, war strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill”. Her sharp angular nose slightly tilted, her hair flowing beneath the golden crown upon her head like the wind, and her white voluminous dress billowing beneath the golden belt strapped across her lithe waist.
And then the maidens both broke into peals of laughter. It is Athena who spoke first. “You almost had me there for a while Saraswati. So how have you been? And how’s your pet?”
“I’m good Athena, and so is my Swan. It never ceases to amaze me though how he keeps sifting between water and milk so dexterously. But then that’s what knowledge does, isn’t it?”
“Can’t say the same about mine!” Athena replied. “My Owl is always in two minds about whether to stick to me, or your sister, Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity. I don’t blame her though. Stuff happens!”
“Talking of stuff, how is Aphrodite? She seems to be everywhere today, especially due to her son Eros’ love arrows.”
“You mean Cupid right?” Athena amended.
“Eros – Cupid, Aphrodite – Venus… what’s in a name, right Athena?” Saraswati countered.
“I wish I could have said the same Saraswati.” Athena retorted with a sigh, “When the Romans came they kind of relegated me to the background. I guess my overwhelming influence over Athens was too much for them. Can you imagine me as Minerva, the Roman Goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy? They decided they needed a new Goddess of war – Bellona!”
“Doesn’t matter!” Saraswati added. “You still got knowledge! Do you know what some ignorant fools turned my day of celebration into back home in Bengal?”
“Now that’s new! What did they do now?” Athena wondered aloud.
“Well they have started celebrating my day as Bengali Valentine’s Day!” Sarswati answered, “Could you beat that?”
“Just because we were both born out of the heads does not mean they can just think anything about us!” Athena answered back, “They are not Zeus or Brahma now, are they?”
“Zeus – no, but zealous – yes.” Saraswati replied, “I wish someone actually at least tried to understand the essence of Saraswati Puja. To pray for wisdom and the ability to appreciate the arts – be it music or dance, no matter what. And to win the fight against ignorance, despite what it may cost.”
“Well put Saraswati,” acknowledged Athena, “I wish my children back home in Greece had remembered what I had always stood for. Maybe the economic crisis could have been avoided then. But I am confident that the same men and women who gave the world so much, can seek redemption post the billion bailout.”
“My dear you have high hopes from Greece!” someone chipped in. The two turned to see who it was. But it was Saraswati who spoke first. “Welcome Lakshmi! What brings you to us?”
“My Owl of course”, she answered back smiling. “I’ve been looking for her. Has she visited you anytime recently, Athena?”
“Well that’s strange! I have been searching for her as well! So she is not with you?”
“Well, not since Lakshmi Puja, during Diwali! It’s been a while now since I saw our Owl.” Lakshmi declared, before suddenly adding, “Look doves! And a fleet of them!”
Sure enough, a fleet of doves suddenly flew into the horizon. But they weren’t the only ones, for She accompanied them. Her hair golden, her face radiant, her body ethereal, and her lips luscious red. She looked almost indescribably, well beautiful!
“Hello everyone!” she affirmed in a voice so charming, you could have even killed yourself just to hear her speak to you one last time.
“Hi Aphrodite! Lakshmi answered, “always a pleasure to meet one born out of the churning of the ocean! So what’s the latest in the world of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation Venus?”
“The pleasure is mine too dearest Lakshmi!, Aphrodite replied, smiling, “And to answer your question, well it seems I am as clueless, now that people no longer co-relate the four attributes that make me a Goddess. But then I know enough, Lakshmi, daughter born out of the ocean’s churning, just like me.”
“What is it that you know, Aunt?” asked Athena.
“I know where your – or maybe Athena’s owl is.” Aphrodite replied, turning towards Saraswati before continuing. “The Owl is busy with something that connects us all – the latest film based on a story by JK Rowling!”
“Let me harbour a guess then,” Saraswati replied, “The Owl is busy with something everyone is going to love, that which will look beautiful on screen, based on a story that has already been read my millions, and which will surely make a lot of people prosperous?”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Aphrodite replied, acknowledging her guess, before turning to look at me.
Yes me, the one who has been narrating the story all this while. And then she softly whispered, “When will you be on a journey to find yours, my dearest?”
That’s when I woke up with a start.
“A nightmare again?” Dad asked, “What’s it this time?”
“Goddesses – Greek and Hindu.” I replied, “All seeming to be interconnected in more ways than I can imagine. Have you ever seen any such dream Dad?”
Rudraksh paused for a while, even as his mind whirled with fleeting images of a burning pyre, a Goddess of time and death, and the Lord of Fire, Agni. “No,” he replied truthfully, for he had indeed forgotten it all, even though the memories lingered somewhere.
“It’s getting late for school my son,” he answered, even as his eyes briefly glanced at the framed photograph of my deceased mom, Tanaaz. What he didn’t share with me then was the intense feeling of dread that had without reason crept into his heart all of a sudden.
If only he had known that his fears were true, and that today was the day that would change our lives forever.
“Sure Dad,” I replied, oblivious to it all, even as I dragged myself to the bathroom, half-asleep. “And yes, Happy Valentine’s Day to you too!”