It’s fifteen years since I returned from a long stay in India. While there I came to feel attached, in the very lightest of ways, to certain Hindu divinities. I did not “believe” in them but they were there: though merely characters in a story in one sense, they were real or half-real in another; and the link I felt with each at the time, hidden and elusive as it was, was indissoluble. With Shiva it still is.
Of Kali and Durga and Saraswati I shall talk another time. These three goddesses variously enriched my stay and reinforced the flimsy structure I spent inner time in, so to speak; I owe them a lot. They are distant family now, though Kali especially is in my thoughts at times. But I have no need of a visible reminder of any, whereas the icon of Shiva on the shelf of an open cupboard is as part and parcel of the make-up of my flat as the photographs of my mother and father on the mantelpiece.
The stories of Hinduism are truer than most, perhaps than all the other major religious narratives, for behind the literal acceptance of ritual is a story-line fondness of the imagination. By which I mean a willingness to entertain the superhuman life-detail of deities as in some sense on a par with our own. It could have gone one way, it could have gone another. There is no grovelling diminution of the human but rather a touch of empathetic co-experience. As perhaps with religions of old and of less “advanced” communities now, a free-play aspect makes for a passing sense of identification that is truer to life than something more imposed.
As it may be. In Shiva’s case it is his energy that, coupled with what it is directed to, can seem to confirm and direct my own micro-dot charge. In his shadow on the shelf he’s as intent and sure-footed as ever, orchestrating some of the notes even of my existence in the furious ease and balance of his dance. I let him get on with it but it’s good to know he’s there.