My grandmother was born on Janmashtami and so, naturally, she was named Krishna. It’s a unisex name. Much like Krishna the god himself, who I suspect was gender-fluid in his divine omnipotence.
Like a man, he charms you and demands surrender. Like a woman, he lights up each cell of your body with his own love and benevolence, raising you to the skies.
I am not religious, but Krishna is a religion unto himself. When my grandma died peacefully in her sleep, Krishna in his godliness taught me that life means death. When the walls of my first marriage were falling apart, he taught me that faith means fearlessness. When I stepped out of home for the first time to earn my own living, he taught me that work means worship. When I battled social mores to be with a partner of my own choosing, he taught me that love means courage.
Krishna called me toward him in his characteristic insidious ways. He dipped me in the fire of domestic abuse so that I would call out his name. He carried me on wings around the world so that I would see his different forms. He took me to the end of my tether on a deserted road in a frozen corner of the planet so that I could have an epiphany. He threw me into the arms of a lifetimes-old playmate so that I could experience his own life-giving ecstasy. He teased me with sorrows and joys with unpredictable regularity, so that I may learn to wait for him under any circumstance, calmly, patiently, stoically.
He changed forms – sometimes the tantrum-throwing child, sometimes the furious mother. Once he was an overbearing boss, at another time a petulant employee. He warmed me when hardships left me bare and cold; he cooled me when I got fired up fighting injustice.
But he was always there. Even if I forgot him at times, he never forgot me. Even if I was busy with my own little existence and my own little preoccupations, he was always there every time I looked up.
Every time I looked up, he was there.
Mere mortals give such limited definitions to love – tying it down in ropes of morality, fidelity, certification, declarations – but Krishna was the antithesis of all that. He was a born rebel. He loved thousands of women, all equally, and his divine consort was married to another man. The slim threads of matrimony could not contain his all-encompassing Love, the one with the capital L, the one that lit up the world and laid the path of idolatry for centuries to come.
In fact, in him, it is her who comes first. Radhe-Krishna. He is gender-fluid like that.
What is Krishna? A mythological being, a historical reality, an imaginary god? Every time I wonder, he tells me, You are like a fish asking, what is water? So now I don’t ask, I just swim in him.
And every time I look up, he is there.
Illustrations by Yashashri Kambli. First published in eShe’s September 2019 issue.