Bridget Jones had a nice term for it: emotional f*ckwittage. That is to say, when a man makes you believe one thing and then turns around and denies that anything of any import happened between you two. I, myself, have been at the receiving end of emotional f*ckwittage in the past, and it seems like as long as the earth goes around the sun and the wind whispers in the trees, there will be men going, “I know I told you that I liked you and I spent every waking moment with you, but at this point, I'm really not looking for a committed relationship. I just don't feel, like, ready?” I haven't come across a millennial term that describes it as handily, maybe emotional ghosting, but this isn't so much ghosting as it is “hey look I'm a nice guy at heart, even as I'm pretending that everything that happened between us was just in your own head.” Emotional f*ckwittage. Let's stick to that.
This is the story of one such emotional f*ckwit, all the way back in ancient India, when the world was divided into devas, the gods, and the asuras, the demons. The two kingdoms were always fighting with each other, but the asuras had a secret weapon, a sage called Shukracharya, who was generally a good guy, despite working for the asuras. I haven't disentangled ancient Indian politics very much, but after my reading, I've concluded that the sages went wherever they liked, helped whoever they liked, and yet, were always perceived as Switzerland in the whole good versus evil thing. Some stories credit Shukracharya with splitting himself into two: one for the devas and one for the asuras, but that bit is not part of my story, so we'll just leave it. He was such a powerful sage, that he helped the asuras defeat the devas once before, and Indra, king of the gods, panicked and sent down his daughter Jayanti to distract the sage. Undistracted, Shukracharya levelled up several times, married Jayanti, and (probably much to Indra's horror) the two had a happy marriage (Jayanti isn't mentioned again, so I'm hoping for the best) and had a daughter, Devyani. She's important to this story, so remember her name.
Anyway, one of Shukracharya's powers was that he could resurrect the dead, with none of the nasty consequences that usually come with resurrecting the dead. (Classic reference: The Monkey's Paw. Modern-day reference: the Night King on Game of Thrones. RIP, and really, rest in peace, this time man.) So, Brihaspati, priest to the gods, all-round super powerful sage, who I've mentioned before in the Great Paternity Suit of Sage vs Moon, had another son besides the one whose fatherhood was in question. This was a handsome young lad called Kacha, and Brihaspati sent him off to learn all of Shukracharya's secrets. Kacha's dad also tells him that Shukracharya is very fond of his daughter, so the best way to his heart is through hers. This can only end badly.
Kacha is handsome and handy, and before long both Shukracharya and Devyani love him, but in totally different ways. Devyani's fully besotted, like, doodle his name on leaves with a twig, follow him around while he works at the ashram kind of besotted. Kacha's not discouraging this either, oh no, he's all smiling and chivalrous and lending a hand whenever she needs one, and Shukracharya's building castles in the sky about marriage and babies for his beloved only daughter, and Kacha is not tearing down these castles. If anything, he's just looking a little coy, as can be expected from a noble young man, too gentlemanly to allude to any of these things.
Meanwhile, the asuras are getting a little panicky. If Kacha learns all their resurrection secrets, they'll have no advantage against the devas. They quietly kill him one day when he's out gathering firewood or whatever manly task he's doing. Devyani gets stressed out when he doesn't send her his usual “u up?” text, and begs her father to bring him back to life if he's dead. Which Shukracharya does, because, as I've mentioned, he was a doting father, and couldn't bear to see his kid so unhappy. Again the asuras kill Kacha, again Shukracharya brings him back to life. Finally, the asuras kill him, burn his body, mix it with wine and give it to Shukracharya. Now, he might've been a great sage, but everyone knew his great weakness was a good wine. Give him a glass and he'd sit there for hours going on about the nose and bouquet and all sorts of things that no one was actually interested in. So, instead of being suspicious that his disciple had vanished at the same time the wine had appeared at his doorstep, he drank it all up, Kacha included.
Then Devyani does her usual, “Oh no, he's not back, he's probably dead, doooo somethinggggg” and Shukracharya does, and Kacha comes back to life — inside his teacher's stomach. That's a lot of gas. So, to retrieve his body and not die himself, Shukracharya teaches Kacha the reviving spell, Kacha bursts out of his body, in a grisly Alien type move, brings Shukracharya back to life and then goes, “Okay, I'm off.”
“Er,” says Devyani, “Have you forgotten something?” And Kacha's like, “What? No, I said thanks for having me and everything.” And Devyani has to put her pride in her pocket and say, “I thought we had a thing going, and now, don't you think you should make an honest woman out of me and take me with you?” And Kacha says, “Oh right, about that. Since I was just born from your dad's stomach, you're my sister now, and I can't marry my own sister.” Of course, Devyani is furious, as would I be at that textbook display of f*ckwittage, and she puts a curse on him. He can never use the spell himself. But as Kacha says, as the situation gets super awkward, “I can still teach it to other people.” And he does, and the devas have the spell now.
Meanwhile, Devyani eventually moves on and gets married to someone else. She's older and wiser to the ways of men. Remember ladies, always check his intentions before you get your father to bring him back to life.
Read more from the 'Mythology for the Millennial' series here.
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of several books, including The One Who Swam with the Fishes: Girls of the Mahabharata. She tweets @reddymadhavan
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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2019 10:24:59 IST