Shiva, God of Destruction
By Andrea Johnston
“Oh ya? Come at me! See what happens!” I screeched at the top of my lungs. Hot anger pulsed like a Bollywood drum through my veins churning adrenaline into outright rage and hatred. If she dared to step any closer, I would charge at her; an angry bull aimed to kill.
There’s an unwritten rule in India when crossing the road: step into traffic, avoid eye contact, and hope for the best. After 3 years, I’d become skilled at avoiding chickens, cows, steaming piles of feces (animal and human), ox carts brimming with colorful fruits, rickety bicycles balancing eggs, auto rickshaws, motorbikes, racing street children, and the occasional automobile; usually air conditioned, closed to the outside world, always driven by an upper class Mumbaikar.
“Wait for me!” I hollered at my friend as I squeezed my way across the busy road. One foot into the lane and I was immediately pinned between an ancient, yellow rickshaw and a shiny, black Audi with tinted windows; the kind that is air-conditioned and closed off to the world.
Hooooooonnnnnnnkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! BEEEeeeeeeeeeppp!!! Beep!!
“What the hell?” I’m walking here!” I shouted over the din at the tinted window. Sweat dripping from my brow as I pleaded to be let free gesturing toward the tinted window, hands outstretched. I even threw in an authentic Indian head-bobble, you know, to show cultural empathy.
A middle-aged woman, whose husband obviously made a healthy income, probably illegally, peeked her head out the window. She was dressed in a lime-green sari, sapphire crystals dripping from her earlobes. If she weren’t scowling and waving her fists, she may have been beautiful. As it was, the dusty orange glow of sunset cast her in the light of Shiva rising from the depths of hell.
“Why are you crossing da road here, it is waaaay too busy. You are too stupid to see that. Mother-chode, idiot Americans tink you own da world ha! Stupid!”
This is unusual. I thought. I;’ve only been addressed this way when I won’t give the street kids money. How am I going to play this? She’s clearly upset, and I made her feel that way. On the other hand, she called me an idiot and I can’t just stand here and let that happen. I have to stand up for myself. What’s the worst that could happen?
“Look lady, I’m not trying to ruin your day here, I am just trying to cross the road. I would really appreciate it if you’d unpin me.”
Hooooooonnnnnnnkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! She blared her horn, maintaining her icy gaze.
“Seriously? You’ve already busted my kneecaps, you want to bust my ear drums too? What the hell?”
“You idiot fucking American, coming to Mumbai to find yourself? How do you find yourself now bitch?”
“Wow. Ok. This is clearly not your day. I can assure you that I am not a mother-chode American intent on ruining your life, but if you do not unpin me I will damage your car.” I balled my fists into bullets aimed and poised. “Your choice.“
The Audi inched closer, crippling my stance. WHAM! I launched my fist onto the hood of the car, making a sizable dent.
“Hit me again! I dare you!” I spit at her barely hearing the advice of my friend imploring me to calm down, catch my breath and disengage. I fired another fist into the Audi’s hood.
“You bitch!” She hollered, “You’ve dented my car! Wait until I get out of this car and show you what dented knees look like!”
“Oh ya? Come at me! See what happens!”
She opened her door to step out, but stopped. We stared at each other, hotly, seething in hatred, fear, anger, and racism. Eventually she turned, flipped the bird, called me a mother-chode idiot American, got back into her car and released me.
I fell into the arms of my friend and wept. I cried out all the anger and hatred, all the filth of India, the sickness, the noise, the dust, the smells, the poverty, the racism, all of it. I cried out everything I didn’t have the strength to face. I had become an angry human, unbalanced, and judgmental. I knew it was time to change. Shiva, the destroyer is a highly regarded God to Hindus. They believe the only way to rebuild is to first destroy. Shiva destroyed me that day, and I am forever grateful to her.