“Meera Sadhu”, is a very powerful novella by K.R.Meera. It has the tidings of Euripides’ Greek tragedy Medea, set to modern times. It was a chance article in Arts and Letters Daily, about the tragedy of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath that rekindled Meera Sadhu in my mind- as a tale which will always ring true.
Medea was about the barbarian woman, who had once saved Jason’s life, being ditched (yes, call a spade a spade, Greek or not) for a royal princess Glauce, of Corinth. Medea, devoted wife, mother of his two sons, turns destructive and vengeful. She murders her two sons as well as Jason’s bride to be.
Cut to Meera Sadhu. The brilliant IIT topper, daughter to a doting father, chooses to marry the charmer with 27 love affairs before her- hoping to be his last love. (Very significant to remember Oscar Wilde’s prescient quotation: “Every man wants to be a woman’s first love and every woman, his last..”) But Tulasi underestimates Madhav’s charisma and attraction to women. They surround him like ants enveloping sugar.
Now, Meera has a gift for using a repeated metaphor throughout her stories. In “Hangwoman”, she used it with the noose, in “Netronmeelanam”, it was with sight. In “Aa Maravum Marannu Marunnu Jnan” (Forgetting that tree) she plays around with the smell of wood, in “Meera Sadhu”, she haunts the reader with the imagery of ants.
Well, Madhav cannot help making love to various women who fall for him. There is the writer, the channel interviewer, the dancer..countless women. Tulasi forgets her life’s goals, her once famed abilities, and becomes a hapless wife and mother of two sons, witnessing a philanderer ruling her life. She knows about his true nature; and has been told by many of his victims (one who throws him away and another who is forced to abort his child) about what he is.Yet, one day when he tells her that he wishes to marry Bhama (Yes, the Krishna lore and the legendary women are all distributed with a fine hand), “an extraordinary genius in dance”, she explodes:’What about me? Was I not considered extraordinary once too?’
Medea, by the way, had slain a dragon to save Jason in the old tale. And like Medea , Tulasi plots her horrible revenge.
Tulasi is now a decrepit Meera-Sadhu, in Vrindavan, complete with shaven head and calloused feet- where all of Krishna’s helpless women flock around. The decay of that existence is brought forth by skillful words which shock the reader. Her undying passion for Madhav, is drawn out very well by the author. So too, her never forgiving anger. Tulasi, the reader remembers, is the mythological basil plant, whose one leaf is supposed to be Madhav’s favourite fare.
Now , read this article on Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.
Hughes could not help his philandering nature-“His problem was that he could never hurt anyone, so he ended up hurting everybody.”
Plath committed suicide, but spared her children. Six years later,the woman for whom Hughes had left her- Assia Weevil, did not spare her young daughter she had with Hughes.
For Hughes , to quote the article, “..all art is an attempt by somebody unusually badly hit ,who is also unusually ill-equipped to defend themselves internally against the wound, to improvise some sort of modus vivendi with their internal haemophilia, etc. In other words, all art is trying to become an anesthetic and at the same time a healing session drawing up the magical electrics.”
I like the psychological analysis of Meera’s stories, which leaves much room for the reader to explore, and to find parallels. For example, “Ottapalam kadakkuvolam ” and “Ave Maria,” both run on the same theme of what sacrifices for the nation and horrendous personal loss mean to a callous, self centered political milieu in today’s world.So too, with a woman’s sacrifices for a man’s love. Whether Sylvia Plath or Assia Weevil, Tulasi or Medea. Certain age old truths are often coloured red. Surrounded by hungry ants. What was it she wrote about a woman’s love in “Pranayandhy?” That it is akin to a dust storm that envelops everything and suffocates and blinds?
Meera Sadhu, with Bhakt Meera’s own lines suffusing the story of an unrequited love (Quote: “You are in love with love, Madhav. That is why you cannot be held back by one woman, ever..”) treads a clear path of analysis and drama, emotion and art: an age old tale, told in an inimitable way.