Embodying a Goddess of Leftovers

Me – I had an awesome meeting. Is there anything to eat?
Amma – I don’t think there’s anything much to eat.
Me – Ayyo, I’m very hungry. Didn’t you have lunch?
Amma – Yeah a bit.
Me: Didn’t I tell you I was coming?
Amma – Not really. I didn’t know when your meeting will finish.
Me – Adadaa, I am very hungry.
Amma – See what is there.
Me – (opens fridge) Oh there is quite a bit of leftovers, but no rice.
Amma – I’ll keep rice. What’s there to eat?
Me – Swordfish curry, mutton curry, vengaaya thuvaiyal, sundakkai poriyal, wow! And…
Amma – There’s some potato curry that Asma sent over. This is how her mother used to cook them.
Me – Awesome! Then there is periya kathirikkai sambal, siru keerai poriyal, and Grand Sweets potato chips.
Amma – Can you wait for ten minutes for the rice to be done?
Me – Oh sure!
(Four whistles and ten minutes later. I arrange all the food around me. Amma heats the mutton curry)
Amma – The rice might have kozhanjufied.
Me – It will be fine ma.
Amma – Will this be enough for you? If you don’t finish it, I can have some too.
Me – (settling down to eat and looking around at the spread) But, can I finish everything?
Amma – Sure, sure, sure!
(I eat for the next hour when Amma makes tire cushions with Mani)
Me – How can you say there’s not much to eat, when there’s so much?
Amma – Ha ha, you eat just like Gowri, concentrating only on the food.
Me – Yes, yes, yes. I lovve eating leftovers out of dabbas like this. What’s not for the trash can is for my stomach.

***

The south Indian Dalit Goddess Matangi, Ellamma’s associate, is popularly known as the ‘outcaste goddess’. Protecting communities from drought and disease, and epitomizing power of domination, freedom, speech,  transgression, music, inner thought and pollution are among her responsibilities and virtues. Matangi is venerated by an elaborate performance by a storyteller who when possessed tells the myth, lives it in to reality, and makes it in to a ritual. Her story is about ‘the sacrifice of animals and humans, as well as about sacrifices themselves’. She is said to be offered leftover or spoiled food, loose change and such used and done goods by her devotees. Negative x Negative kind of logic. The pure in the polluted. As all assimilation exercises in Hinduism, Matangi is later assumed as the Tantric form of Saraswati. Today’s an ode to the goddess of leftovers…

Here M.I.A tells you the story of Matangi. Listen to the song below and let me know what you do with leftovers

…she represents the hood because her dad is an untouchable…Well he was an untouchable and his name was Sage Matanga, and he was the first guy to get enlightened without… Because the way Hinduism was set up, when you’re reading the mythology and stuff, the rules of it is that you have to be reborn again and again and again—you know, because they believe in reincarnation. And every time you’re reborn, you have to, like, overcome Maya. And once you overcome the Maya you get born again at a higher level. So basically there’s like levels to being, reaching spiritual enlightenment… It’s like a computer game—actually that explains it better—you get stuck in a level for a long time, and you have to keep redoing it. And so Sage Matanga basically broke all the levels, got to the top, cracked the game without restarting. Because Brahmins in Hinduism are elitists. They are like the corporations of today. They basically acquire the right to own knowledge and spread knowledge and preserve knowledge. They document and they protect and they keep it and they use it however they want. And to be a Brahmin you can only be born to it. They think it’s a gift when you’re born a Brahmin. And they’re the ones that owned temples, you know, so they can own how the information went out. It’s sort of similar to like extremely rich people today who acquire the church or the information within it… So anyway, Sage Matanga wasn’t a Brahmin and he overcame that. So he got given a gift of goddess. She was reborn to him and she was already a goddess of music and she always represented the hood and the untouchables and people that lived in the ghetto. The untouchables had their special neighborhoods and nobody else went there. They were like dirty people because their jobs were to clean streets. They were hunters, they cleaned animals, meat, corpses. They were funeral people who worked in cremation grounds. So they had the worst jobs that society could have. And nobody talked to them and they were basically like the dirty people on the planet. So she liked representing them because of her dad, but also because, in that zone is where you can tell the nature of pollution and how environments get polluted. Because she is the goddess of music and spoken word, she fights to keep the frequencies clear, unpolluted. She finds a way to study the levels of pollution by living in a very dirty place.

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