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Sorting out our Saraswati

india Updated: Feb 06, 2011 00:12 IST
Renuka Narayanan
Renuka Narayanan
Hindustan Times

I’m reliably informed that Saraswati, the sweetly-flowing, will have herself a birthday or name day on Tuesday. Just entre nous, don’t you find her strangely asexual? It’s not like she and Brahma have a sizzling connect like the other Big Twosomes, Shiva-Parvati and Vishnu-Lakshmi. There’s not much mythological excitement, really speaking. It’s as though she’s this proto-bluestocking, except she isn’t made to look like a she-nerd in iconography (gosh, should that be ‘nerdess’?).

No, the Boys’ Club lets her wear a white sari, sometimes with quite dressy borders and she’s parked on a white lotus. But look, that’s a pretty heavy lute to have thrust in your arms to hold forever and as for that hamsa or goose hanging around all the time, I’ve often thought it’s exactly like a driver set to snoop and report on the memsahib by the sahib.

But to get back to the vibe, you know, whatever they’ve got happening,Brahma-Saraswati as seen by our ancients, it’s a bit froid by classical standards. He’s the Creator, so many rules are relaxed for him, just like the big captains of industry are excused this and that by Page Three, in fact, they’re celebrated for their excesses with the rest of the world saying ooh at what they spend, sail or own as arm accessories.

So are Brahma-Saraswati out of a Nordic film or what, like I used to see at Celluloid, the Delhi University Film Club, in which exceedingly polite couples read books by the fire, go for long, solitary walks in the woods or around the lake and look at sled tracks in the snow in sudden silent angst, in other words, lead separate lives in different rooms, even different houses? It all sounds fearfully post-modern, but I’m just your regular Bollywood weepie sort, so you go figure.

Basically, He’s so into the job and the parties that She’s doing her own thing as the Goddess of Knowledge. In the bad old days this meant being mascot to just one bunch of men, tiresome and annoying though they were. Today Saraswati is totally stressed out as everybody’s mascot; she’s the icon of a whole knowledge economy. And it’s Lakshmi on Page Three, while Saraswati manages the works. I say we should send her a card, like go buy someone who needs it a book, for Saraswati’s birthday. She could do with the appreciation.

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture.