Dolly Koghar weaves a tale about the illusion called Maya.
Let me tell you a story about the mirage called life.
There were two crows living happily near a wet-market dump on which they’d swoop down to feast, from their perch on the gnarly, lone tree in the municipal-housing compound. Their evenings were spent observing the deeply lined faces of the hunched oldies on the decrepit benches, indifferently watching the children jostle for a turn on the creaking and rickety swings, slides, jungle gyms, and seesaws. Life was good, until that fateful day when they ventured far beyond their vicinity and cut across a sprawling park.
Through the thick branches of the lush trees, they saw a verdant mat with people lying around, chatting in groups, or munching and drinking things they’d rarely seen in their own hood. Then, as they flew over an expansive lake in the middle of the park, they saw something that took both their breath and happiness away. Below them were a few dazzlingly white swans, effortlessly and gracefully floating on the water surface, creating nary a ripple.
From then onwards, although everything was much the same as before, the kauvas (crows) were miserable. They loathed their drab and ominous plumage, and their own kaa-kaa sounded abrasive and obnoxious! Ever since they’d seen the swans dunk into the lake and swallow fresh, writhing fish, the trash they’d relished was now disgusting! Ultimately, envy compelled them to go visit the swans.
Surprisingly, despondency was writ all over the hansas (swans), although they symbolised pure, enlightened human souls unsullied by the distractions of the world, akin to their feathers that stay dry and immaculately white, even in muddy waters. They felt their monotonous and unexciting blanche feathers were nothing in comparison with the peacocks housed in a pen across the lake. The unimaginably magnificent mayurs (peacocks), they said, had been celebrated for centuries in sonnets and songs. They are immortalised in every aspect of the arts, in etchings on temple walls and on old coins, and till date, the morr remains the most frequently used motif on Indian fabrics. In fact, the splendour of the peacock’s unfurled tail so enraptured Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who’d later commission the Taj Mahal mausoleum for his beloved wife, that he emulated it in his jewel-encrusted Peacock Throne!
With the dilemma thus intensified, the crows cajoled the bevy’s leader to accompany them to the peacocks, where an even bigger shock awaited them. The mayurs wept bitterly when they saw the free-spirited kauvas and the elegant hansas. The beauty that established them as the national bird of India also cursed them to a caged existence, and the risk of extinction because of humans’ desire for their tailfeathers, for frivolous decorations and rituals.
When questioned as to why they spread their heavy tailfeathers fan-like to entice humans when rainclouds gathered; the pride’s leader’s eyes grew misty and took on a far-away look. He reminisced that when the skies overhead darkened, the memory of the dark-skinned and mischievous Lord Kṛṣṇā mesmerises them to dance in sheer ecstasy. The ritual is a meagre offering to him, the creator lord, who by incorporating their one single plume into his headgear, has exalted their species to be identified for time immemorial with his persona, alongside his murli/bansuri, his captivating flute.
Ultimately, whether we are the banal kauvas or the chic hansas or the hi-so mayurs strutting our stuff, Kṛṣṇā is teaching us in his usual playful way through his beloved hollow bansuri that to let the melody of the divine reverberate within us, we, too, need to hollow our hearts and minds of dross and attachments. Meanwhile the reality of the single mayur plume that he wears in his hair, the one that our naive eyes see as ethereal and iridescent blue and green, is actually just a play of light on the brown pigments of the thick and layered feathers. This is the true nature of this creation and everything in it, including us and our emotional highs and lows; it is all Maya, an illusion, a dazzling and vividly vibrant deception!