Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life in a Comic Book by Laxmi Hariharan

Her favourite purple cotton nine yards saree, starched to within an inch of its life, rustled in protest as my sixty-five-year-old grandmother leaned towards the five-year-old me. “She is the goddess of wealth and good fortune, the consort of Lord Vishnu. The festival of Diwali, the Indian new year, is celebrated in her honour.” My heart beat fast as I was introduced to my namesake, the goddess Lakshmi.

She looked so beautiful—a curvaceous woman, with a serene smile on her face, clad in a pink saree, and standing on a lotus, which signifies both purity and fertility. A stream of gold coins gushed from her right palm signifying her generosity on those she was pleased with.

Would I one day grow up to be as beautiful as her I wondered, running my fingers through my unruly mop of curly hair. My first brush with science fiction was the adventures of these Indian gods and goddesses first narrated to me by my gran, and later from Amar Chitra Katha—a series of Indian comic books, which introduced me to the treasure trove of Indian mythology.

Flying chariots that sailed soundlessly through air traveling vast distances in the twinkling of an eye; handsome princes teleporting to the aid of their beautiful true loves; swarthy gods who could reduce humans to ashes by dint of opening their third eye; battle scenes with clashes between millions of humans, gods, half-humans-half-animal creatures wielding bows, arrows, swords and those incredible swirling discs which could be hurled with unerring precision at enemies beheading them. I loved the blood, the gore & the romance.

The gods had super powers, but very human hearts. They fell in love, cheated on wives, took mistresses, had affairs, cursed their children, killed in battle and were killed themselves, bequeathed their kingdoms to their children, finally renouncing the material world for the spiritual when they reached middle age.

When I started writing, no one was more surprised than me to discover how much of these series of comic books had stayed with me. Most of my plot-lines came from the stories I had heard from my grandmother and then seen illustrated in them.

If I were to single out one specific story, then I would pick this one.

The story goes that Yudhishtra, the son of Yama-the God of Death, is always truthful, he is the man who will never lie. Having lost his kingdom, Yudi, his wife and brothers are living in the forest, when they come across a lake. His wife and brothers are asked by the guardian of the lake to answer his questions before drinking from the lake. They disobey him, only to die on drinking from the lake. When it’s Yudishtra’s turn, he answers the questions correctly, thus bringing his brothers and wife back to life.

This Q & A session was my first brush with philosophy, and it had me hooked—blame it for making me obsessed with life’s larger questions, the answers to which I am still searching for till today. Author meet thyself.

About the author (in my words): 

Though born in India, wanderlust drove me out of my home country and I lived in Singapore and Hong Kong before being based in London where I now live. I am inspired by Indian mythology. It was in embracing my roots that I found my voice. My debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon
Reach me here:
twitter at @laxmi

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  1. The story was very interesting about the lake. Your books are probably very exotic because of your background, and interesting to read.

  2. I did a bit of research into the Indian culture and religion and I have to admit I came away somewhat confused, but fascinated. Knowing it so well gives you so much to work with. I'm definitely intrigued.

  3. I think comic books imprint themselves on our minds for multiple reasons. The strong good-vs-evil storylines and memorable characters are so dramatic, and the colors and graphics really imprint themselves in the memory. I'm glad people are starting to appreciate them as literature!


  4. I did three years of philosophy at university and vividly recall the impact that Indian philosophy had on me: I was fascinated by the belief systems of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Charvakism. It is indeed a rich and diverse source of ideas for not only philosophy, but fictional tales and life itself... Siddhartha by Herman Hesse remains one of the most moving and powerful books I have ever read.