Saturday, October 24, 2015

GILGAMESH

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“Some say Gilgamesh is the oldest story ever told and so I’m 
looking it up. It turns out it is, in modern terms, about a 
dictatorial king, his courtesan, and his wild man best friend, 
and I don’t really get it. Perhaps it’s because it’s a man’s story 
and that’s why. I never really did understand all of Poe, or 
Joyce, or Wodehouse, the way I really, really understand the women writers,” Uma mused. Then there was the children’s version of Gilgamesh Uma decided to get for her sons, hoping they’d like the oldest myth in the world.

After dinner she read it to them. Dev listened intently as always but his question threw her off, ”Don’t I have an uncle by that name?” Yes, it did sound like his uncles’ names, almost all of which ended in the syllable –esh. She thought it was odd she had never in her whole life noticed that before.

“What does Gilgamesh mean?” was Dev’s next question. He had been falling into this habit of asking what every Indian name meant.

“I see here it means ‘one who has seen the abyss'”.

With that their foray into the mythologies of the world ended for the day. She had forgotten to tell him the myth was Babylonian not Indian but a few longitudes here or there didn’t make any difference to one so young she decided. Children see people as people. Their awareness isn’t splintered by race color ethnicity nationality religious affiliation disability or sexual orientation.

This story grew in Uma’s mind a little at a time, like “The Blob” and haunted her all her waking hours, a shadowy thing in the gray areas of her imagination. The trio started to come to life. She could hear them talking and laughing and carrying on about their days in the sometime millennium B.C. She knew she had found the handle to a secret passageway of some kind. Without realizing it she had descended into the mythic abyss she had first found after Ma had died. When marriage and motherhood came along she had abandoned her quest. And yet it had found her out seeking her companionship, for what is a quest without its seeker?  But Kingship is never on a woman’s mind until perhaps when the sons start to obsess about King Arthur or some such figure. Thumbelina held the boys’ interest only so long so she began to look for myths and stories Dev and Nikhil liked, and she almost never really liked.

Spongebob was the most perfect example of that. The little yellow critter drove her to the brink of insanity. The boys loved him like a brother. She became a propaganda machine against him and failed. Then she tried to dilute the yellow bellied lily livered porifera messages by adding wholesome amounts of vintage Disney where every body knew right from wrong, firemen rescued kitties from treetops, the men were brave, the women fair, fairy godmothers stopped by, and so on into their daily dose of media. It worked in unexpected ways. She learned the names of all the boys and men in the stories and Dev explained to her that all the trouble in these movies started, especially in Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, because nobody had kicked the bad queen’s arse. They loved Alice for doing just that, and cheered Lara Croft on to her most daring and skimpily clad adventures. All that sword fighting in the collective hours of wholesome tube watching had turned the boys into experts at stick wielding which translated into martial arts lessons and they did rather well at those. And then there still was the trouble with Gilgamesh. Who was he? Why did he haunt her so? Why was that the oldest surviving myth in the world?

Gilgamesh, one who has seen the abyss, slowly stopped to haunt her thus. There were cookies to bake, nursery rhymes to sing, dishes to wash, bills to pay. But a seed had been planted and the seed time was long, unusually long, for this seed.

 Iron John, Odysseus, Gulliver, Caesar, Udayan, Arjun, Zeus, Mowgli, Michelangelo would have to whisper their asides loud and clear before Gilgamesh could come back in Act III.