AN UNEXPECTED PROBLEM
A week after Shiva's marriage to Parvati
Shiva was sitting in a corner, his brows furrowed and his fingers drumming on his knees. Nandi was looking on, distressed. Something was surely troubling his master, Nandi thought.
Perhaps a cataclysmic problem which if not solved will threaten the existence of the three worlds. Nandi felt it was extremely unfair that whenever the world was faced with a problem his master was expected to provide the solution. It seemed particularly unfair now- given that it was only a week since his Lord’s marriage to Mother Parvati.
Nandi had offered to help, but he was only a bull. Nandi wondered why Shiva had not shared the problem that was vexing him with Parvati, but probably he didn’t want to bother his newlywed wife. His master was so wonderful, Nandi thought. If only someone came along to help him. Nandi’s hopes were raised when he heard the familiar chant of ‘Narayana… Narayana….’
Narada appeared and folding his hands before Shiva wished “Greetings, O Lord”
“Blessings Narada,” Shiva replied, raising his right palm ever so slightly. “Where are you coming from?”
“From where else, O Lord, but Vaikunth” replied Narada.
“Is Sri Hari Vishnu in good spirits?” enquired Shiva
“With Sesha Naag providing shelter and mother Lakshmi gently pressing his feet, Sri Hari Vishnu was in tranquil bliss, O Lord. Mother Lakshmi was talking and Lord Narayan was smiling with his eyes closed” replied Narada
Shiva sighed. Then he asked “and what was it they were conversing about?”
Narada looked startled. “When Narayan and his consort are engaged, I take care to keep my distance, Lord. Intrusions to domestic privacy are not kindly taken” said Narada and added slyly
“You too would be knowing about it by now, Lord”
Shiva sighed again.
Narada realizing that Shiva seemed disturbed, asked “My Lord….you seem troubled. Can I know the reason?”
Shiva answered “N….No…. Narada. Maybe I will ask Sri Hari Vishnu himself. You may leave now”
Narada realizing that Shiva wanted to be left alone departed after bowing.
Shiva too realized that it was time he swallowed his pride and sought help. After all, he would have to swallow worse things in future. But first he would ask his aides – the Moon God on his head and serpent on his neck for advice.
He closed his eyes and summoned Chandra Dev and Nagaraja. They appeared in front of him in their human forms, wondering why Mahadev had asked them to appear. Summons like this usually meant they were about to get a dressing down from their master for some misdemeanor or the other. Nargaraja especially had been at the receiving end too often. Trembling, they folded their hands.
Shiva nodded his head to acknowledge their presence and spoke in rather constrained voice
“Er… I have called you because I….er…..need your help.”
Relieved that he was not going to be upbraided, Nagaraja fell prostrate on the ground, mumbling incoherently about ‘gratitude’ and ‘privilege’.
Chandra Dev spoke more composedly “Lord, you are our master. We owe our lives to you. We are honoured that you even thought us worthy of helping you. Please tell us what is troubling you.”
Shiva averted his eyes and taking in a deep breath said “Mywifeisangrywithmeandwillnotspeaktome”
Chandra Dev and Nagaraja stood open mouthed trying to make sense of the torrent of words.
“Er… Could you repeat what you said?” asked Chandra Dev
Shiva composed himself and tried to speak slowly “My….wife….is angry with me ….and …will not speak to me.”
Nagaraja and Chandra Dev gaped at Mahadev as if unable to believe their ears. Then suddenly Chandra Dev turned to one side and buried his face in his uttariya, trying to muffle his laughter. Nagaraja however abandoned all restrained and rolled on the floor clutching his stomach, unable to control his laughter.
Chandra Dev who still hiding his face in his uttariya was making strange stifling sounds.At length, however he calmed himself and gave a swift kick to Nagaraja.
Nagaraja got up and wiping his eyes asked weakly “You, too Lord?”
Both of them were overcome with laughter once again.
Shiva, suspecting that they were enjoying themselves at his expense, raised his hand to silence them. “Quiet. That is why I have called you. How to cajole an angry wife”
“You” Shiva said jabbing a finger at Chandra Dev, “You have a wife, right?”
“Wrong, Sir” Chandra replied “I have wives…not one, but many”
“Then what do you do when one of them is not on speaking terms with you?” asked Shiva
“Simple. Move in with another wife. For instance, if Rohini is angry with me, I go to Revathi and when she is annoyed, I move in with Ashwini and if she too stops speaking with me, I call Pushya….With 27 wives, I am spoilt for choice” answered Chandra with a smug smile.
Nagaraja grinned approvingly.
“I see” said Shiva, icily. “But tell me, what happens if all of them stop speaking with you?”
Chandra closed his eyes and replied “I enjoy the peace”
‘Wonderful”, commented Shiva, his voice heavy with sarcasm. “And you Nagaraja, I can scarcely expect a more gentlemanly behavior from you. How many wives do you have?”
Shiva breathed easy.
“....Three…..hundred”, finished Nagaraja. “…..approximately” Chandra Dev gave a low whistle.
“Disgusting” Shiva replied and continued “It may have escaped your notice but I happen to have only one wife” and added forcefully, “And she will continue to remain my only wife. Now I need to cajole her. Do either of you have any suggestions?”
Chandra Dev answered “ My Lord, this situation is certainly without precedent”
“Which situation? A wife who is angry with her husband?”
“No. Us having to advise you…” answered Nagaraja gleefully
Chandra thought for a minute and suggested “I have heard women like it when they are compared with me” he said, pointing to his face. “Maybe you can suggest Mother Parvati is more beautiful than me”
Nagaraja nodded. “Yes, it works. That’s how I cajoled my Nagini yesterday. In fact I even sang this to her….” Nagaraja began singing in his hissing voice
Oh my beloved, with face like the moon
Won’t you speak to me soon?
Your moods wax and wane like the moon
Won’t you come to me and croon?
So engrossed was Nagaraja in his singing that he did not notice Chandra Dev swelling in anger. By the time Nagaraj had finished his ditty, red splotches had appeared on Chandra’s face.
“How dare you compare your Nagini with me….you black hooded…slimy…..netherworld creature…” spitted Chandra
“Now don’t you dare to say anything about my Nagini…..” retorted Nagaja
“Peace, Gentlemen…” Shiva raised his hand, indicating he wanted silence. “We are here to discuss my problem. You can settle your scores later. Anyway it won’t work. My Parvati is thousand times more beautiful than you, Chandra Dev, get that?”
It was Nagaraja’s turn to offer a solution “Maybe Mother Parvati is homesick. Maybe you can offer to send her to her parents’ home for a few days.”
“Nah” Shiva replied. “That would be cowardice. She must be made to feel happy here, in Kailash.”
Both Nagaraja and Chandra Dev pondered on this deeply. At length Chandra Dev asked "But why is Mata Parvati annoyed with you?"
Shiva shrugged his shoulders "Beats me"
Nagaraja was flabbergasted "She also beats you?" Chandra whacked Nagaraja on the back of his head.
"Maybe you did something, that's why she is angry with you" suggested Chandra Dev.
"Or maybe, you did not do something, that's why she is angry with you" added Nagaraja helpfully.
Shiva was stumped. "She will get offended if I do something and she will get offended if I don't do something also?" he queried
"That's how women are" both answered in chorus.
"Why don't you ask Mother Parvati herself?" asked Nagaraja.
"How can I do that when she is not on talking terms with me?" answered Shiva.
"So the problem is to find what it is that has upset Mother Parvati so much" summarized Chandra Dev.