The sun was setting. She was standing alone in the middle of a jungle. She did not remember how she got there though. But that was however not her main concern. The distant cries of wild beasts were no longer sounding so distant. It was only a matter of time before it would turn pitch dark. Once it turned dark, she would be fair game for any hungry predator. She had no clue how she was going to get out of here before that.
Then suddenly she heard the rustle of dry leaves. Some creature was coming towards her. Fear just froze her to the spot. As she looked on a beautiful deer emerged from the copse of trees. She let out a sigh of relief. The deer was followed by a girl of around fifteen years of age. Strangely Shruti did not feel surprised to see this young girl in the middle of the jungle. She somehow seemed an integral part of the jungle the same way the trees, the animals and insects were.
Since the girl had made her appearance Shruti could not take her eyes off her. Her eyes were riveted to the girl like a magnet to the North Pole. The face had a quality of innocence and purity to it, but no vulnerability. Instead there was a calm self-assurance. She beckoned to Shruti with a gesture of a hand. Shruti went up to her instinctively. The thought of questioning just did not occur to her.
She handed over a bow and a quiver of arrows to Shruti. She was not sure why she was giving it to her. But she took them and followed her as she walked into the jungle, Then the girl paused and pointed to some tracks on the ground. The prints were large and one could make out sharp claw marks on the wet sand. Clearly they were the tracks of a predator, possibly a tiger. But all this was making absolutely no sense to her. Why was she going with this girl on a tiger hunt? That too with such primitive weapons! But it seemed as if she were under some spell and she just went along. As the time passed, she could feel her eye sight and hearing improving. She was becoming better at following the tiger tracks and listening to animal movements at a distance. Soon they could see the silhouette of the tiger at a distance. Now they had to quite stalk the tiger till they came to a strategic spot from which an arrow could be fired. In an little while, tiger paused to drink at a water hole and they found a strategic spot behind the bushes. The girl pointed in the direction of the tiger. Shruti took aim and shot. Just as the arrow was about to leave the quiver, the girl made a sound and tiger leapt aside just in time to miss the arrow.
By now, Shruti had got fully into the hunt and had begun to enjoy the hunt. She was disappointed at missing the tiger. “Why?” she asked the girl. She could see the answer in the girl’s eyes. She suddenly realized who the girl was. She was Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the hunt. All creatures of the forest were her children and she would not let any harm befall them.
“But then what was the purpose of the hunt?” she asked. The girl just gave her a smile. What was there to smile about, Shruti wondered. But she found herself smiling too thinking of the hunt. She had really enjoyed herself the past one hour. She had never enjoyed herself so much since her days in childhood when she was fully engrossed in her games. She realized that was the answer the Goddess was giving her. The thrill of the hunt was the purpose and nothing else.
Shruti waited expectantly for Artemis to start preaching like the other Goddesses. But to her surprise Artemis started walking away into the forest. She called out after the Goddess. “Artemis! Wait! Don’t you have some advice for me on marriage?”
Artemis stopped, turned back and gave her a quizzical expression. Then she shook her head, gave Shruti a disappointed look and began to walk on. Shruti remembered. Artemis was a virgin Goddess, all of whose forswore marriage. She was probably telling Shruti what was the big fuss about marriage. In a way she was right. It wasn’t necessary that everyone should get married. After all whether love or arranged or planned marriage what did marriage mean to a woman in the end? Submitting herself to the authority of a man, bearing his kids and taking care of his family! Surely there were better things in life than that! So not marrying at all was another interesting option. Why hadn't she considered that before? But then that was not helping her. She was already struggling with the available options and more options were the last thing she needed.
All the earlier dreams had ended as the Goddesses were reaching the fag end of their sermons. But Artemis had totally disappeared in this dream. But still the dream seemed to show no sign of ending. She tried to slap herself and force herself to wake up. But nothing seemed to be happening. It seemed as if the world had come to a standstill. She just stood there in the middle of the jungle. As she stood, she pondered over what each Goddess had told her.
Aphrodite had stirred up her emotions and shown her the importance of being in tune with one’s inner feelings. Hera had appealed to her filial loyalty and social conditioning and made her realize the importance of preserving social norms. Athena had used reason and logic and stressed upon the importance of not letting go off one’s ambitions. Now how was she to decide which was more important.
By her silence, Artemis had given her the answer she was seeking: that there was no right or wrong answer. One had to balance between these multiple priorities and think and take one’s own decision. But that did not mean one needed to think too far ahead and get all worked up. The fun was in the hunt and not in killing the tiger. So she just had to take whatever decision felt right, stick by it, take things as they come, focus on the present and have fun.
The insight calmed her mind and she felt an inner peace and harmony. She felt an oneness with the jungle around her and she was really fully present in the present for the first time in her life. It was indeed a delightful feeling. She felt no fear. Even though it had become dark, the cries of wild animals had increased and now and then she could see pairs of red eyes moving in front of her, she felt no fear. She calmly lay down and went into deep slumber. She had finally woken up from her sleep.
Related Post : Love and Indian Society
First Part of the Story : Mind's True Marriage I
Previous Part of the Story : Mind's True Marriage III
Picture credit : Deer Picture