avatars: gods for a new millenium   minal hajratwala

 

The Cast

M, a young Hindu American woman
SHIVA, the god of destruction
PARVATI, the goddess, Shiva's consort
ZEN STUDENT 1
ZEN STUDENT 2


NOTE: Although the play as written is divided into conventional acts and scenes, it can be played continuously with scene changes indicated by lighting and other effects.

ACT I: CONFRONTATIONS
Scene 1: The Hindu Temple
Scene 2: The Zen Center
Scene 3: Vac, the Goddess of Speech

ACT II: THE DESCENT
Scene 1: The Goddess of Absence (Paleface)
Scene 2: Naga Puja
Scene 3: Dialogue with PARVATI

ACT III: THE ASCENT
Scene 1: Jizo, the Aborted Buddha
Scene 2: The God/dess of AIDS
Scene 3: The Goddess of Tough Love
Scene 4: Maya, the Goddess of Illusion


ACT I: CONFRONTATIONS

SCENE I: THE HINDU TEMPLE

Enter SHIVA and PARVATI, adorned, approaching through audience aisles while M, enters from upstage. All walk to the same rhythm. M reaches center stage and performs a traditional bharatanatyam opening gesture toward Shiva and PARVATI once, then again as they walk to their pedestals behind her on stage. M picks up garlands of flowers.

Voiceover: M

(As voiceover plays, M garlands SHIVA and PARVATI, then bows toward them.)

I was born in America, but I was supposed to worship the Hindu gods, with their fantastic stories and costumes. Like Shiva, who sat in meditation for millennia, and his devoted wife, PARVATI. They stood against the back wall of our suburban temple, lit with floodlights, radiating a huge aura that said OBEY YOUR PARENTS. We made offerings of raisins and rock candy; I guess they had a sweet tooth. Their marble skin was always cold, they never performed any miracles, and when I put my hands together and gestured toward them, I just wanted so much more.

SHIVA

Thakadim thakadim thakadim thakadim. (16 counts)

As SHIVA chants, M faces audience and begins traditional dance in step with his rhythm, dances to center-left and freezes.

PARVATI

Look, Shiva! She'll have such beautiful babies, won't she? Someday we'll bless her wedding....

SHIVA

Yes, I hear she may go to medical school ... become a doctor or an engineer...

PARVATI

She won't need to do that! We'll find her a doctor or an engineer.

SHIVA

Thakadim thakadim thakadim thakadim ....

As SHIVA speeds up, M stumbles and falls at his feet. SHIVA and PARVATI exchange concerned looks behind her, clear their throats. SHIVA begins again, slowly, with exaggerated patience. M rises, apologizes and begins again, facing audience. After a few beats, her dance becomes wilder, sexual.

SHIVA

What's she doing? SHAME! SHARAM!

M, afraid, stops dancing.

PARVATI

Beti, come home. Daughter, who are you praising? We are your gods.

SHIVA

SHAME! SHARAM!

M runs toward PARVATI, sinks at her feet.

PARVATI

Don't you want everything we can give you ­ jewelry and flowers, pretty clothes.

SHIVA

SHAME!

PARVATI

I'll braid your hair with roses. Don't worry, we'll find you a husband and everything will be all right. You're young now ­ just concentrate on your studies.

M picks up a book and begins to read.

SHIVA

Ah good, she's studying ­ an engineering textbook, I'm sure. I told you not to worry, my dear.

M (reading from book)

Adrienne Rich ­ "Compulsory heterosexuality."

PARVATI

What did she say?

M

Monique Wittig ­ "We lesbians ... are runaway slaves ... escapees from our caste."

SHIVA

What's she reading? What's she saying?

M picks up picket sign and begins to march across stage, chanting and shouting, as SHIVA and PARVATI yell at her.

M

We're here, we're queer, we're not engineers!

PARVATI

What are they teaching her? What's that chant?

M

I'm here!

SHIVA

What's she saying? She's too young!

M

I'm queer!

PARVATI

She's just stubborn, she doesn't know any better!

SHIVA

Shame! Shame! Stop that right now!

M

You can't stop me!

SHIVA (moving toward M)

Stop!

M attacks SHIVA with picket sign. He falls toward PARVATI.

PARVATI

You don't need to do that ...

M reaches toward PARVATI, but SHIVA and PARVATI exit stage left.

ACT I, SCENE 2: THE ZEN CENTER

Voiceover: M

(During this voiceover, M puts down her picket sign and picks up Zen cushion, walks to center stage, puts down cushion and bows to it, sits in meditation position, begins breathing deeply.)

So I gave up on Hinduism, left home and went looking for a religion without rules or shame. I became a Zen student. Buddhism was part of my heritage, too, I figured, even though Zen in America was a version interpreted by white people. I was not there to socialize ­ I was there to calm my desires, soothe my anxieties, and most importantly, get rid of my anger. Every Wednesday night I would leave work to sit for 40 minutes in a temple to No God.

M (chanting)

Avalokiteshvara when practicing deeply the prajna paramita ...

We hear a cell phone ring twice, offstage. ZEN STUDENT 1 enters carrying cushion, phone. She chatters into the phone as she moves center stage right, very close to the poet. M continues chanting quietly, but is increasingly annoyed.

ZEN STUDENT 1

Yah, so it's like 7 o'clock now, so I should be done in like 40, 45 minutes, I mean how long can it take? OK how bout the Slanted Door, yeah, I know, reservations are like really hard to get? but let's try it? ... OK, so see ya then, gotta meditate now, 'K bye. Kisses.

ZEN STUDENT 1 sits, then pops up again as ZEN STUDENT 2 enters with cushion, backpack, index card.

ZEN STUDENT 2

How are you? God, it's been so long, it's so good to see you! We definitely have to like do lunch or yoga or something ...

ZEN STUDENT 1

Yeah, it's so hard to talk in the Zen Center!

ZEN STUDENTS continue chatting as they noisily settle in on either side of the increasingly irritated POET. They join her chant, mispronouncing words and on a different beat. ZEN STUDENT 2 is reading his chant from an index card.

ALL

Avalokiteshvara when practicing deeply the prajna paramita perceived that all five skandhas in their own being are empty and was saved from all suffering. O Shariputra form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form, that which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness form, the same is true of feelings perceptions formations ...

ZEN STUDENTS get louder and louder, drowning out M, until:

M (standing)

Stop! I can't take it anymore! Listen: Prajna paramita ­ is that so hard?

ZEN STUDENT 2 (earnestly)

Progno pura mee toe ...

ZEN STUDENT 1

What's your problem? I come here to relax.

ZEN STUDENT 2

Personally, I feel great! Oh look ­ time to go!

ZEN STUDENTS pack up. ZEN STUDENT 2 exits, saying:

See ya next week!

M

No you won't! I can't stand it ...

ZEN STUDENT 1

Bye bye! I hope you find some inner peace.

ZEN STUDENT 1 exits. M angrily pushes her Zen cushion off the stage and sits on edge of stage, ready to address the audience for the first time.

ACT I, SCENE 3: VAC, THE GODDESS OF SPEECH

M

You know what, I give up. I tried Hinduism, I tried Buddhism, and I won't even mention my Christian phase. From now on, I'm an atheist! Yes -- I like the sound of that. Atheist, atheist, atheist.

Notices PARVATI, who has entered from upstage left carrying magic bowl, lid, red shawl, and is now standing right next to her.

What --? What are you doing here? I just told everyone I'm an atheist, and now a goddess appears? No way ­ you aren't really there.

PARVATI

I've come with a message for you.

M

A message? I told you, I'm an atheist ­ I ­ I don't think I'm interested in a message.

PARVATI

Fine ­ you must have found what you're looking for. But if you're really an atheist, how come you're seeing me?

M

I don't know ... but I'm not looking for anything anymore. Other people's religions just are not doing it for me.

PARVATI

Why are you being so rigid? You're a poet ­ be creative.

M

Why should I listen to you? You're on SHIVA's side ­ he probably sent you here.

PARVATI

Is that all you think of me, that I'm just SHIVA's consort?

M

That's how you act!

PARVATI

You only see the ways I support SHIVA, not the many ways I support you.

M

Like what?

PARVATI

Like, what do you think I'm doing here? Do you think I have nothing better to do in the universe than bring messages to ungrateful humans?

M

OK ... what's the message?

PARVATI

As I was saying, you need to be creative. Why are you so rigid? Take me, for example -- I incarnate as many different avatars. Sometimes I'm Kali, when I'm enraged. Sometimes I'm Shakti, Uma, Gauri, Bhavani, Sati, ...

M

Easy for you to say ­ you're a goddess!

PARVATI

(As she speaks, PARVATI sets the magic bowl, covered by lid in front of M and drapes her with red shawl)

(Sigh) Here, let me show you. When you open this, there will be a light. In India, it would be a fire, but in America, you have fire codes. The light will help burn through this world of illusion so that the goddess VAC can speak through you.

M

Speak to me, you mean, not through me ­ that doesn't make any sense. Why doesn't religion ever make any sense?

PARVATI (exiting)

Just trust me on this one.

M

Hey--where are you going?

Exit PARVATI

M

Well, OK. I guess it's not every day a goddess appears, I should probably do what she says, right? Maybe I should chant or something, let's see ... Om devi ... Om shanti shanti shanti ... Om devi ... Om ....

Kneeling, M opens the magic bowl to reveal a red light inside (or lights a candle if possible), sweeps hands through and prays to it. The chant transforms her into the guttural and fierce VAC, the ancient Vedic goddess of poetry and creation, who kneels up, slams a lid on the bowl.

VAC

Not from nothing Not from nothing Not from nothing Not from nothing Not from nothing Not from nothing but from the light

burning glowing from within
Not from nothing but from within
the body
the body I gave you
I named you
lips thighs throat tongue poet
Not from nothing but from the original syllable
Om
which I am
VAC!
Not from nothing the goddess of speech
song of the wind voice of all the gods universal poet namer of names VAC from the beginning
Not from nothing but from words
my words, which I give you, use these words: I want
Use them to create your own gods Not from nothing but from all the gods within you
ready to be birthed from your desire from the soil of your ancestors from the waters of Ganga the fires of Agni the light of Ushas the breath of voice, of VAC (standing)
Create your own gods Not from nothing but from the four directions
the seven ways of moaning, the nine doorways of the body the one thousand syllables the 24,000 years of your age, Kaliyuga
Not from nothing the age of chaos Kaliyuga, age of confusion
when demons walk the planet and bring plagues upon the people
Kaliyuga
cusp moment between your millennia
Kaliyuga
the gods toppled the goddesses slaughtered their corpses lying in dust and museums
Kaliyuga
the holy books corrupted the priests less wise than the prostitutes
Kaliyuga Listen now as I reveal your fivefold path:
the path of perfection the path of madness the path of the abyss the path of compassion the path of desire
the desire to create Find the gods you need Not from nothing but from moans
of suffering of passion
Not from nothing but from the desire to create
to build to know to journey and from the places you have been afraid to journey
where the bodies are buried where the abyss looms where nightmares lurk where the wilderness grows thick Not from nothing but from despair
from the mistakes I know you will make
Persevere with my gifts Persevere with the body I gave you
named brown named queer named human named divine named beautiful the most beautiful syllables I can give you: I want
Say it: I want (to audience, angrily) Say it! I want! Not from nothing but from these words
I, VAC goddess of speech give you words inhale me breathe me through your body my voice through you
Conjure the gods Not from nothing but from the bones of who you are
from the bones of who you are
Begin Not from nothing but from everything
your past, your present, your future your passions and failures your moments of grace your moments of need
Create your gods Not from nothing but from the bones of who you are Create I want Create!

Drop body, arms, shawl; bow in prayer gesture and become M again.

ACT II: THE DESCENT

Scene 1: The Goddess of Absence (Paleface)

M is in the same location on stage, with her bowl, etc., but the setting is different: suburban, grass, picket fence, etc.

M

Did you see that? A goddess ­ speaking through me ­ incredible! I want to do it again! Where's that light? Om .... Hmm, it's not lighting. What did she say? Breathe. Create ... Oh yeah ­ "I want." I want to be a goddess again!

Hmm. Maybe I'm supposed to think of something else. Like what? I want to be ... a millionaire? No, too crass. I want ... to be a good person.

OK, too boring, right? Let's see, how about a more primal desire, like, when I was little ...
When I was little, I didn't really want much ­ I think I just wanted to be normal.

Walks to grassy area and begins to put on wig, whiten skin with powder/cream, pick up purse while speaking the following lines, which transform her into Goddess of Absence:

You know, just a normal American kid. We'd eat ... meatloaf, instead of chicken curry. Maybe I'd have blond hair. And a name that was easy to pronounce, like Ann. Or Jennifer.

GODDESS OF ABSENCE

Wow! I did it ­ I'm white! This is so great. (to audience) You want a closer look? Don't you just love my beautiful hair, my creamy complexion? Don't you just want to touch me?

(leaps into audience; spotlight follows her through aisles/rows as she addresses various audience members)

Yeah, go ahead. (pulls away, indignant) You didn't really think you could touch me, did you? But you like it. Yeah, I can tell ­ I'll see you after the show. What about you, huh? What's the matter ­ jealous? Yeah, you guys are jealous, aren't you? You wanted to do it, and I did it, and you can't stand it. You hate me just cuz I'm white! Well you know what that makes you? A racist!

(turns and strides back to stage)

You're just a bunch of racists, reverse racists, that's what you are.

(sitting on edge of stage; during the monologue below, opens purse and preens, using compact, lipstick, eyelash curler, etc.)

Well I'm not a racist. My husband is Indian. 'Course, you hate that too ­ hypocrites. ... You got a staring problem? Yeah, everywhere I go with him, I see you guys staring at me ­ like I stole him, or something. Please ­ I didn't! I get nightmares about you people. It's like Invasion of the Indian Relatives or something. Cuz there's never just like one aunt or one cousin, it's like 12 aunts and 15 uncles and a million other people, everybody with the red dot on their foreheads, what's that all about? And they got all these gods and goddesses, almost as many as they got relatives, ha. Well, I'm a goddess too ­ surprise!

Yeah, I'm the goddess of white. Perfection. No wonder my husband likes me. Loves me. Can't stop thinking about me. I turn him on like none of you ever could. You think I stole him, but you know what? He walked to that altar on his own two feet. He laid down the sacrifice. To me.

Wanna see it?

(Takes diamond ring out of purse and puts it on, shows it off)

Three months' salary. Nice, huh? Good thing you raised an engineer! Good thing you raised a computer programmer! Good thing you raised a doctor! Thanks mom. Thanks dad. Heh. Trying to get in my nightmares, I'm gonna get in yours.

(Runs into audience again; follow spot)

I'm gonna be your worst nightmare. I'm a goddess, don't forget. I got magic powers. In fact, (sings) every little thing I do is magic. So even if I just ... SPIT at you, my spit turns green, see it, turning into snakes, lots of 'em, tiny green snakes crawling up your skirts and saris, all over your brown skin, and up inside your head, emptying it out, cuz I'm the white goddess. And

(Runs back onstage, shouting)

didja know what white really is? It's power -- the power to erase you. It's the total absence of any kind of color ­ so all those ugly colors you wear, your dark hair, your dark skin, everything gone, erased, cuz I am the goddess of absence.

(On knees, lunging seductively toward audience)

I seduce all your lost boys, I wrap them in my white thighs and squeeze, and they love it. They forget you completely. They don't even know your names, you disappear, and they'll do anything for me. Because I make them FREEEEEEE.

The GODDESS OF ABSENCE laughs maniacally, which turns into M's anguish as she tears off the wig, bent over and screaming ...

M

Oh my god! What the hell was that? Deranged ... Ohmigod ... Help me ... I gotta get this off me ...

ACT II, SCENE 2: NAGA, THE SNAKE GOD

These two scenes are continuous as M scrambles to bowl that the fire was in, and smears black soot on her face and arms, darkening them over the white powder.

Ugh ­ that's a little better ...

Face down, sigh of relief turns to the evil laughter of NAGA, who slowly looks up and begins to speak with a heavy Indian accent.

NAGA

Much better!

He wraps himself in a heavy brown shawl and stands slowly with help of cane.

She wanted to be white, hah, what does she know? That is not what VAC said. Did she tell you to reject your culture? No, she did not. In any case, if madness is topic of interest, I am much more qualified to speak! That is because I am Naga, snake god, ruler of underworld, kingdoms of sssoil and inssssanity. I will tell you story.

Once upon a time, in land far far away, in hinterlands of America ­ place called "Michigan" ­ there lived a young man. Let us call him Sanjiv, the long-lived. He was smart young man, but ­ not as smart as me! I am master of deception, great seducer. I spin nets of delusions, dragging you down to the pits where my serpents live, bottom of the ocean, deep in earth. Slithering between roots. Where the bodies are buried.

To this young man, Sanjiv, I appeared as a simple garden hose. Coiled in his parents' garage: Green. Lithe. Seductive. And he took to thinking of me. Caressing me each time he passed by. So when he received word, he knew exactly what to do.

First he wrote his note: Dear Mum and Dad. I didn't get into medical school, I'm sorry, I love you. Goodbye ... Then he set it on the counter in Hindu kitchen where no blood can be spilled. Heh! Made five phone calls to five friends ­ they were not home! Left word that they should call him back.

Then, from hook in garage where I was hanging, I heard his shuffling step. Sweet rhythm roused me. When he came into garage and shut the door behind him, I was ready.

He took me lovingly by the throat. From exhaust pipe of car I snaked around, between wheels, up to cracked window, driver's seat, his open lips. He turned the key and breathed ... in. I filled his lungs, metallic green poison darkening his face. He was mine, filled with venom, mine, there was no antidote. Mine. Hehheh ...

(to audience)

And you ... you are artist! Excellent. My favorite kind ­ already half-insane. Attracted to madness, the other side of your poetic genius.

Well, here I am. Shall we dance? Let me seduce the craziness I am sensing inside you ­ and audacity, also! What makes you think you can dance with me and live? There are men who do penance praising me for 29 years standing on one leg ­ and you dare to invite me to tango?

I am Naga, do not try to run, I will chase you in one of my 20,000 forms. I will choke your creativity, make you stammer and stutter, poison your words so you will speak only with my venomous tongue!

But, yes, there is small chance you will survive. If you dance with me and live, you would grow stronger. That is power of Snake God ­ to enter the abyss and emerge, still pulsing.

ACT II, SCENE 3: DIALOGUE WITH PARVATI

As NAGA gleefully glowers, enter PARVATI, upstage left. Upon seeing her, NAGA drops cane, guise, and becomes M again, trembling. PARVATI extends her arms, and M runs to her. PARVATI takes NAGA's shawl off her.

M

(traumatized) What's happening to me?

PARVATI

Shh ... it's OK now ...

M

That crazy old man ... white bitch ... I can't get them out of my head! (Pause) You told me to do this.

PARVATI

I didn't; VAC did. But she shouldn't have sent you out all alone, I'm sorry ...

M sees water, begins splashing herself frantically.

M

I gotta get this stuff off me ...

PARVATI

Here, let me help you ...

PARVATI picks up towel and wipes arms and face of M, who slowly calms down.

You're so beautiful. You're doing really well, you know. It isn't easy ­ creating anything, let alone goddesses and gods.

M

It feels crazy! Am I doing something wrong?

PARVATI

No, you're doing fine, just try again. But this time, don't listen to all those other voices trying to tell you how to be. Just listen to your own body, pay attention to it ...

M

My what?

PARVATI

Your body. It's been preparing for this all your life. I knew you'd give birth to a beautiful...

M

I'm not interested in giving birth ­ didn't I already tell you I'm queer? I'm a writer, a thinker, an artist ­ not a breeding machine!

PARVATI

But you've still got to pay attention to your body. Your resistance is getting in the way of your creativity.

M

I don't see--

PARVATI

Just remember, your body is part of the earth, like a river, or a cow making milk for her young ...

M

See, there you go again! Milk, babies ­ I don't want any part of that! Listen ­ I'm not like you. "Roll the chapatis, change the diapers, oh, let's make another baby now, honey!" No way. I'm here to follow my own path, my own dreams.

PARVATI

(Sighs) All right. Tell me about your dreams.

M (tracing images in the water)

Well, I have dreams of mountains ... murders ... being chased. I ... I dreamed of a daughter. She looked just like me, all swaddled in white, and my own father held her.

And I dreamed of a son: He had curly African hair, he looked like gold, he stood all alone.

PARVATI

Yes, you could--

M

No!

PARVATI

Why--

M

No! I killed it!
I killed it!
Six weeks ­ too early even to know, boy or girl. They put a tube in me. They had latex gloves. And the tube, it was thin. Thinner than a finger, my thinnest finger. And they put it in me, up me, up in me. Deep. Nothing has ever been in me so deep. And then, the noise ­ sucking. Not like a baby sucking, but loud, like a Vacuum cleaning me of what he put there. And the tube reached all the way to my heart, pulling my whole chest in, I couldn't breathe. The noise, that's all I heard, the machine, sucking...

PARVATI

(Pause) Behn ... sister ... Come back ... What do you hear now?

M

The noise--just--

PARVATI

Yes ... what's behind that noise?

M

Nothing. It never cried. It never--

PARVATI

Listen.

M

I don't hear ... I want to hear ... its voice ... would be reassuring ...

PARVATI

What would it say?

M

"I ... forgive you."

PARVATI

It's in you.

M

It's not! I killed­

PARVATI

Sings lullaby as M calms down again.

Ma ne bapa to kasi giya re
Sonbai behn ne muki giya re
*
The voice, it's in you. Do you want to hear it?

M nods.

ACT III: THE ASCENT

SCENE 1: JIZO BUDDHA

Using white veil, PARVATI begins to transform M into JIZO BUDDHA.

PARVATI

The voice has a name ­ Ji-zo, they call him in Japan. A buddha. You Americans, you think life begins at some certain point ­ but it's a process. The soul slowly emerging from the invisible world to this one. When that process is interrupted, you need to send the small soul back. That's where Jizo Buddha helps. He is still in you. Now, call him with me.

Jizo . . . Jizo . . . Jizo . . .

PARVATI continues the chant as JIZO BUDDHA rises, takes four steps toward center stage, spins and runs, playfully peeking out from under the veil, in the manner of a small child. PARVATI continues to chant "Jizo" as marked below.

JIZO BUDDHA

You think you killed me ­ but I'm not even born yet. So which moment is the crucial moment? [Jizo . . . ]

Spinning:

I am Jizo, the Buddha of journeys. You must send the little soul back to me. It's the roundtrip ticket we all have, to move between the worlds, unbirth to birth and back again. Coming, going, years-months-weeks ­ six weeks ­
[Jizo . . . ]

Sees beach ball on Astroturf, runs to it, picks it up and plays:

arbitrary markings. Time flows. Ask me: Do I exist when the seed enters the egg?

Hits ball into audience.

Yes, of course, but also long before that, in the egg and seed that lead to the egg and seed that lead to egg and the seed. And long before that. & still only a wink in the eye of the cosmos. Birth, death ­ these are just markings. Not the journey. Not the story itself.
[Jizo . . . ]

Picks up chalk and traces in air.

Story: So there is a moment, in the endless universe of moments. You name it: Conception. Intended or not. The cells join and grow, and make a ball. Ball ­ where's my ball? Ball: No eyelashes, no gender, no fingernails. Only cells. Only the ball. I am that ball and I grow, and then the growing stops.

Tosses ball suddenly to audience:

CATCH! You missed. I slip out of you, pushed or sucked or cut out of you.
[Jizo . . . ]

I, potential fist, skull, child, never breathe. Never swallow air or milk. Never cry. Nothing. Emptiness.
[Jizo . . . ]

Emptiness, emptiness. You think you are mourning that clot of cells. So you want to know, who is responsible? Who did this?
One moment please.

With chalk, draws hopscotch on floor and jumps through the squares:

Yourself, your god, your man, yourself.
Yourself, your man, your god, yourself.
But what you are really mourning is emptiness. You're becoming aware of all those emptinesses inside you. Inside every body here, great emptiness.
And in that emptiness, I am. You get it? Do you understand? I am.
[Jizo . . . ]

JIZO veils self again.

[Jizo . . . ]

PARVATI stands.

[Jizo . . . ]

ACT III, SCENE 2: THE GOD/DESS OF AIDS

PARVATI exits, greeting SHIVA, who is entering from upstage left, carrying incense, purse, candy and dressed in drag as half-male/half-female Ardhanarishvara. M emerges from the veil, looks for PARVATI to thank her, but sees him instead. SHIVA sets down the incense near M.

M

Oh ­ it's you.

SHIVA smiles but remains silent.

M

Um -- I kicked you out, I thought you'd never come back! But you look ... different.

SHIVA

(campy) Time to see me in a different light, honey!

M

It's not just the light.

SHIVA

I'm your last chance, girl, so listen up! I got some fabulous stories for you. Story of my birth, and then my rebirth, and then ­ oh, we better get started. Sucker?

M

I am NOT! ... Oh ­ uh, thanks...

M unwraps and sucks on candy throughout SHIVA's monologue. He unrolls scroll.

SHIVA

So let's start with a little about me. I'll just give you the highlights. Visualize: beginning of the universe. Brahma, the Creator. You know him? Very buff. So he's making the whole universe, by churning the ocean, churning, churning, and all these new life forms emerge ­ you know, trees, frogs, treefrogs, frogmen, men, women. But he forgets one little thing. They were all gonna die in one generation! So, he calls me, I mean us, you know, SHIVA and Shakti, half male, half female, all of existence, basically. "Um, SHIVA, I need a favor." "Sure, darling ­ anything for you!"

DROPS scroll, goes to lingam, upstage right.

So we go on over there and, well, this part is hard to explain, but basically, we incite this giant orgy, get everybody fucking everybody. Get it, that's what was missing ­ sex! [gets absorbed in the memory of it]

M

Ahem! That's interesting ... but how does that help me? I mean, I'm supposed to be creating gods, but I can't exactly churn the primordial ocean ...

SHIVA

Girl! Patience is a virtue, who said I was done? I know you think this is all so ancient history, well it is, but it's not! Anyway. So I'm doing the yin-yang thing, keeping the universe balanced, all that. And the queers, hijras, drag queens, eunuchs, everybody loves me. It's cool for about two thousand years. But get this ­ just this year, some excitement! This latest thing is fabulous. Maybe you'll get a clue from it, too.

Sitting on pedestal upstage right, reading from newspaper:

There's this village in Karnataka, South India, way out in middle of nowhere. This schoolteacher, bless his little heart, takes this statue of me ­ there's lots of em around ­ and makes a whole new temple ­ to me! Because ­ this is really sad ­ there was this couple in his little village, in Karnataka, and they died and nobody cared. Everybody was really fucked up toward them. Because it was AIDS. So this schoolteacher ­ I just love him, I'm gonna give him like a whole kingdom in his next lifetime ­ he took this statue and painted right up here (forehead), the letters HIV. And he built me a temple and he filled it with flowers, red ribbons, the whole bit. And the brahmins, they are so ignorant, got their dhotis in a wad and tried to make him take it down, but he was like, No; it stays. And now all these other villages are doing the same thing. So you, darling, are looking at the new Goddess of AIDS! Get it?

M

Yeah, I get it! That's so cool. So he took a god that already exists, and made him ­ or her ­ relevant to today! That's very cool.

SHIVA

Yes, and it all started with sex.

M

What? Sex? I don't know if I want to mix religion and sex ...

SHIVA

You have to, darling. Just let go! You're so tense! Loosen up...

Massaging M's shoulders:

See I can tell, it's all in your shoulders. If you're repressed about sex, how are you going to do anything? I mean, if I hadn't introduced the concept the first time around, you wouldn't even be here. So how can you not bring sex into it? It's creation! Energy, passion, honesty, vulnerability, lust for life, all that ­ I'm telling you. Get it? That's the whole problem of suffering ­ people can't admit that they actually have sex. That's why this little demon gets in everywhere.

M

Sorry, I lost you there ­ what demon?

SHIVA

The virus ­ it's a demon.

M

It is? ... Can't you slay demons?

SHIVA

Not this one. It thrives on silence. See, I'm not just saying people should have sex. I'm saying they've gotta talk about it.

Sitting on pedestal, reading from computer printout:

Take Bombay. 30,000 prostitutes, 60 clients a month, 50 cents each ­ taxi drivers, truckers, rich young guys, whoever. These guys have wives, fiances, mistresses, boy toys. And they sleep around on the side; maybe they have kids. And boom ­ 3 million cases in India today, the most in the world. And none of them ­ except the prostitutes ­ are admitting that they're actually having sex. They'd rather die.
So they do.

M

But that's just wrong! You're a god! Shouldn't you do something?

SHIVA

Shouldn't you? I'm telling people exactly how to slay this demon, and people are too cowardly to do it. Just like you. You want to keep it separate ­ sex over here, spirituality over here, good girl, bad girl, goddess, slut. Weren't you supposed to start with "I want"? Break the taboos, baby. My work here is done. Good luck!

Exit SHIVA.

M

He's right ­ sex! Of course! That's what my first dance was about ... that's what VAC was telling me about my body ... Yes, that is what I believe. I'm not going to be afraid to say what I want anymore. I wanna be a love goddess!

ACT III, SCENE 3: THE GODDESS OF TOUGH LOVE

Strips off t-shirt and becomes ...

GODDESS OF TOUGH LOVE

I want, I want, I want! I want it good, I want it bad, I want it slow, I want it fast, I want it low, lower, I want it oh, so wet.

What, don't you believe goddesses get wet? Of course we do. You are made in my image. And you're gorgeous.

So, do you want to join in? Yes ­ it's a new millennium, what better time to join a cult, my cult, the cult of the goddess of love? At least if the world ends, you'll be having an orgasm ­ and so will I. Because this is the initiation ceremony. Haven't you been wondering what this is all leading up to? It took her a while to get here, but I'm worth the wait, don't you agree?

Ah, but it's not that easy. Not all of you are gonna make it. Because I'm not Aphrodite, or Venus, little blond goddess on the half shell with tits the size of teacups. Uh-uh. I am the goddess of tough love. So let me tell you the rules.

In the cult of the goddess of love, there will be no "cute." Let the puppies die. Paint your walls blood red and prepare for the second coming of the dakini of wilderness.

On the day of judgment I will know the righteous by your smell of sweat and women's cum. And those of you who try to live the life of the pure, transcending the body for the promise of the holy, will be strung dangling from your spirits, fibers of soulstuff stretched thin as tendons, the unbearable ache of unrequited devotion, of knowing no god will ever love you for your suffering, for your hairshirts & whips, for the many millions of stigmata on your skins.

Of course, if you want to talk about whips, I've got a whole collection. Come over sometime. I'll lay you down, stroke your back with a feather, a tongue, then we'll see what you deserve.

Would you like to know how to get into my heaven? Then kiss me.

Approaching audience:

Kiss me. It's time for communion.
Kiss me. Don't be afraid.
For the queendom of my heaven is reserved for those of you who glory in what you are given: who hold hands in the path of tanks. Who touch each other to pay homage to touch. Who place your bodies in the arms of trees to save them. Who whisper mountains & climb sentences with bare feet & glittering toenails. Who seek transcendence in the body, not in its denial. Who love your women with ten thousand indulgences ... every day. And, who understand the vocabulary of moans...

Moans for several seconds.

So -- are you ready? I'm ready ... If you are ready to submit, then place your heart here and accept the blessing: May this be your only lifetime. Enjoy.

Turn in a circle and become:

M

Enjoy! Enjoy! This is so much fun! I did it ...

Enter SHIVA, PARVATI, Zen students one by one with instruments; they surround her and play music until M collapses in moment of Orgasm/Enlightenment. Lights. Bows.

ACT III, SCENE 4: THE HINDU TEMPLE

Exit SHIVA, PARVATI, Zen students. Slowly, M wakes as if from a deep sleep, confused, rubbing her eyes, as the Goddess of Illusion:

MAYA

What's all this?
What is all this?
Who are you?
Maya ... Illusion ...
Maya. Illusion?
But it feels so real. I feel real.
Don't I? Don't I feel real --
Maya ... Illusion ... (singing)
Maya. The great goddess.

This air her body
This fire her breath
This sky her ... my mind
The sun & moon, my eyes
Maya
Illusion
Creation
Delusion
Imagination
Revelation
Revelations
What is all this?

Tearing around the stage, she pulls away fabrics, knocks over items, exhibiting a range of emotions from rage to grief to coyness to wonder:

What is all this?
What's behind all this?
Manifestation
The way we make

meaning out of chaos
being out of nonbeing
something from nothing
art from pain
"I am" from "Who am I?"
Who are you?
What is all this?

Chafing at clothes, she begins to undo buttons, slowly strips away each item of clothing:

Layers & layers
like water clothing the earth
Maya Illusion
what separates us
scraping peeling flicking away
the layers of reality
thin as ricepaper
Maya What is all this?

Naked, kneeling, she bows toward the audience, forehead to the ground. Lights out.

THE END


* Or any South Asian lullaby. back


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