“Why are you two always fighting?”
My mother was irritated, as she often was around us my brother and I. “Because of you guys it’s never quiet in this house. I work all day long only to come back home and find you screaming at each other. You never let me have some peace. I feel like neither of you cares about me.”
Ah, the emotional blackmail. It worked, as always, and we both went to her and started saying sorry and eventually started fighting again, this time about which one of us loved her more.
“You guys will make a fight out of everything, won’t you?” my mother smiled. “Why don’t you be quiet for a while and sit down? I might make you some snacks and tell you a story if you do so.”
Sufficiently guilted, we settled down. After a while she came back with luchi and dahl.
“Now that’s more like it, my sweet little boys,” she said. “Today I am going to tell you a story about Kartik and Ganesh, the two sons of Goddess Durga. They were just as naughty as you two, or perhaps more.”
I didn’t know whether to feel good or bad about that.
“So. One day, Kartik and Ganesh were fighting about who loves their mother more. Goddess Durga, annoyed by their quarrelling all the time, proposed a competition between them.”
“Isn’t Ganesh the one with the head of an elephant?” my younger brother interrupted. He always interrupted. It felt like he only interrupted to make me mad.
“Well, yes,” she smiled at him.
“Why does he have the head of an elephant?” my brother asked.
“Goddess Durga created her son Ganesh from sandalwood. Then she appointed him as a guard of her house and told him not to let anyone in. After a while, her husband Lord Shiva came and tried to enter the house, but he wasn’t allowed in. At this Shiva got very angry and cut Ganesh’s head off.
When Durga came to know about it, she became very angry at Shiva. So Shiva tried to fix this by attaching a new head to Ganesh’s body, and he ordered Brahma to bring the head of the first creature he crossed who was lying with his head facing north. Brahma found an elephant like this, cut his head off and brought it to Shiva.”
“And that’s why we don’t sleep with our head facing north.” I had my intellectual moment.
“I doubt Brahma is still looking for a head,” my mother laughed. “So Shiva took that elephant head and placed it on Ganesh.”
With my moment of intellectuality ruined, I became a bit dissatisfied. “Can we go back to the story now?”
Realising that I felt inferior, my mother looked at my younger brother and said, “But your elder brother already knows the story. He is very smart, isn’t he? And you certainly take after him.”
My mom was always good with sweet talk, at times too good and balancing I guess. She went back to the story.
“So, Durga wanted her sons to have a racing competition. She wanted both of them to go and complete a round around the entire world. The one who would complete the round first would be considered the one who loved his mother more.”
I looked at my younger brother. He was fairly smaller than me. I bet I could beat him any day in a race.
“Kartik had a peacock as a pet while Ganesh only had a mouse. The peacock that Kartik owned was very fast, and Kartik himself was very fit as he ate his vegetables regularly,” my mother looked at me, “while Ganesh ate too many sweets and was not as fast anyway.”
I looked at myself. “I am not fat!” I protested.
“I am not saying you are. Anyway, let’s just say Ganesh was too heavy for his mouse to carry him and thus when Kartik rode his peacock and went to take a round around the world, Ganesh just stood there and became very sad as he couldn’t decide what to do.
Ganesh took his mouse on his palm and went to Goddess Durga. He asked his mother how he could defeat Kartik who was riding his peacock and was already very far ahead. Listening to his woes, Durga smiled and said, ‘Don’t you think a mother is the entire world to her son?’
Ganesh may have the head of an elephant, but he was very smart. He understood what Durga was indicating, and walked around his mother.
Thus, his turn around the world was completed within seconds and he won the race, proving that he loved his mother more than Kartik.”
“What did Kartik do when he found out?” my younger brother asked. “Wasn’t he mad?”
“Well, it takes a long time to take a round around the world, even for Kartik,” my mother said, “and I’m pretty sure Durga was smart enough to convince Kartik somehow that he won the race too.”
She took both of us in her arms. “She loved both of them equally, just like I love you guys.”
I thought we’d both be a little angry at hearing that she didn’t love one of us a bit more than the other, but surprisingly, neither of us were. As we finished our food she asked, “So boys, what do you learn from this story?”
“That you mean the whole world to us!” We both screamed and embraced her.
“You didn’t need a story to know that did you? Why don’t you boys wash the dishes now if I mean that much to you.”
Well, we were lazy, but kind of trapped at the same time. After we were done with the dishes I went to my mother. “What do we really learn from the story?” I asked.
“To always ask your mother for advice and do what she tells you. Which neither of you boys do.”
“We did wash the dishes as you told us!”
“I did most of the work,” my brother’s voice came from behind us. Always picking a fight, my brother.
Cover image via Rapid Leaks