My dear Srinivasan:
I waste a lot of time in idle thinking as you know. Especially about things that never happened. Yet, they could have happened all the same. The subject in question today refers to a somewhat mind boggling tale, picked up from the Anushasana Parva in the Mahabharata. It was Grandpa Vishma apparently who related the story to Yudhishthira.
There was a pious King called Vangasvana. He was childless and performed the Agnishtuta Yajna to please God Agni and the latter, having been amply appeased, granted not one, not two, not even three, but a hundred sons (mind you, no daughters) to the Rajarshi.
Now, it so happened that the Yajna in question was directed towards satisfying Lord Agni alone. And this fact pissed off no less a God than Indra himself. He was mad as hell. (See how mean and envious these Gods were? Always counting curses! So, to take it out on poor Vangasvana, he created a magic spell and made the chap lose his way. He was tired as hell and landed near a lake. He made his thirsty horse drink the water and took a plunge into the lake to cool himself off.
Wonder of wonders, he emerged from the lake changed into a female!! A result of Indra's trick of course. According to the Mahabharata, her (his?) shame knew no bound, as would obviously be the case for any woman who finds herself in a state of total undress in the middle of nowhere in full view of no less a witness than a horse! Nonetheless, she returned back to the Palace. (Now don't you get ideas. She found clothes to wear before she undertook her journey to the Palace. Women's clothes I mean. Where did she find the stated clothes? I don't know. Why can't you stop asking silly questions man? They make me lose my concentration.) No one recognized him there of course, given that it was her they saw and not him, but they believed the story. Especially so since the once upon a time "he" announced that he was abdicating the throne, which the now transformed "she" had no bloody right to abdicate. But then, there were no lawyers around to point out the legal complications. She asked all his one hundred sons to rule in tandem. (I wonder how simple the latter act would be though. The UPA Government at Delhi has fewer than ten parties to share the throne amongst themselves and look what they are doing to one another with each passing day!!)
The sexually transformed Vangasvana disappeared thereafter inside the depth of a forest where a willing hermit was waiting in horny anticipation. They started to live together. (Nowadays, the forests are inhabited by the Maoists alone and I don't know what could have happened if she turned into a Maoist. She could cause a worry or two for politicians in Delhi and West Bengal.
The hermit and VT (Vangasvana Transformed) began to live together. But living together usually involves a corollary. Sleeping together. The corollary it seems worked with a vengeance, for soon enough the voluptuous VT conceived. And, as was V's wont, VT too produced exactly one hundred sons. (Sons again, no daughters. What an MCP world! Makes me sick.)
Well VT goes back now to her first litter of a hundred sons (Confusion again, her or his litter?) and tells them that the empire needs to be shared between all the two hundred kids!! (The lawyers are yelling and screaming now, I am sure.) More fragmentation. Which would probably have meant that each son ruled there onwards over a square inch of land. (But then this is India. Population over a billion. They were a mere two hundred, yet the signal was clear.) I think the children were somewhat dim-witted and failed to see the absurdity of the situation.
Trouble started needless to say. Not on account of the sons, for, as I said, they were not particularly well-endowed with grey cells. Actually, the same old Indra threw up a tantrum, lamenting to himself that in trying to get V into trouble, he had ended up making him happier. Quite clearly, the sons were living in peace and harmony, despite the number of kings in the kingdom exceeding the number of subjects.
Indra the vicious, now posed as a Brahmin (I know not why a Brahmin was called for by the way) and approached the sons. He poisoned the minds of the first hundred with the following piece of undeniable logic: "You are the sons of the erstwhile King. The newcomers are the fruits of a hermit's loins. How can they lay claim to the throne?" (Or thrones may be. I am highly confused now, as you can guess.) How mean indeed. Especially so since I in the shape of a B (I mean I as in Indra, not as in "me" by the way) refrained from pointing out that half of them had sprung out of V's sperms and the second out of VT's ova!! Unless of course, he was himself an MC and thought sperms, like Brahmins, had a higher position in the social ladder than ova! (Idea, idea! What is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is just an MCS, a male chauvinist sperm!!)
No sooner was this said than the first batch took up arms against the second and destroyed one another. I mean all of them ceased to exist. The news reached VT, who wept an ocean of tears. I (not "me" recall) to save himself from being drowned, decided instead to soften his heart. Or, may be, drenched in saline water, his heart turned mushy.
Whatever the cause may have been, he rushed back to VT and told her (him? -- so confusing man!) the reason underlying the miseries she was undergoing. VT immediately prostrated herself (?) at I's feet asking for forgiveness. (He was clearly in trouble. If she went on crying, he would need to board Noah's ark!) Her crime of course was that he had ignored the jealous God without meaning to. I, it appears, was not hard to please. No wonder. He was on the point of being drowned. He grinned happily, splitting his face neatly into two halves, equal to one another in all respects (as Euclid might have observed).
And now of course, he had to offer a boon or two. "I will grant you a wish?" he said, or the two halves of his face said, inspiring more fear I suspect (I = "me" this time) than relief in the heart of the damsel in distress. At the cost of repetition, it was the damsel who was in distress (not to speak of I too of course, not me this time), but not the king on horseback who had lost his way. There was a caveat though. "I will bring your sons back to life, but not all of them. Which ones do you wish to come alive, the sperm-wallas or the ovum-wallas?"
And you know what she replied? She said she wanted the ovum-wallas. I was puzzled as well as curious. "But why so," he asked.
VT replied, "Dear Lord, women know how to love more than men. So, the love I showered on my ova generated sons was greater than the love I was able to spare the sperm chaps, especially when I was busy producing the sperms that fathered them."
It seems Indra was delighted by the answer. (What was so delightful about it, I don't know. This I chap seems to me to be pretty close to being mindless. But, may be, in the old days people enjoyed laughing a lot more than we do. As civilization progresses, frowns are overtaking smiles at an ever increasing rate. Curse counting is one of the most popular of pastimes in modern societies. Even Durbasa had probably giggled every now and then. I mean, I suspect so. I as in "me" this time by the way. I know this, because I cry most of the time, unless someone begins to tickle me. And then I can't stop laughing. Lack of balance surely.) Coming back to the story, I brought all the two hundred alive. (I mean not I as in I, but as in ... Come on chap. Why do you make me repeat? What a bore you are! Will you please let me finish the story before I forget it?) In instilling life into all the two hundred, the God I was offering a discount no doubt to ensure that people visited his temple more often. (We don't know, by the way, if the sons immediately started killing each other again.)
Fret not my friend, I am almost near the end of my story. I (the other I of course) now asked VT, "Pray, tell me what your heart craves for. Your former sperm generating self or the current ovum filled existence?"
VT replied without the slightest hesitation that she wished to continue as VT and had no desire at all to be re-transformed into V.
Once again, I, full of inquisitiveness (too nosey don't you think), wished her to explain her choice.
The answer was: "As far as conjugal satisfaction goes, it's the woman who enjoys the act more than the man. So, I (i.e. VT) want to continue to be a woman."
"Tathastu," said the God incredulously and vanished. (Whether he transformed himself to a woman to test things out, no one has found out so far.)
That's the end of the story.
But I have a question for Vyas though. And surely you don't know the answer to this question. I wouldn't have known even the question had I not been an economist. You see, economists make a lot of fuss over whether satisfaction is comparable. I mean, if you and I were to eat a mango each and declare that we both liked our mangoes, who on earth can decide which one amongst us
liked it more? Did you like your mango twice as much as I? Utility is not cardinal these theorists argue. You can't compare two persons' utilities. So, how seriously should VT's preference for "sleeping" in the shape of a female rather than a male be taken?
On the other hand, come to think of it, may be she did have a point. After all it was the same person (?) who had enjoyed both ways of love making. And while Indra had changed her sex, he may have kept the part of the mind that registers sexual enjoyment unaltered!.
I = ME