Shyaonti Talwar


"Another world is not only possible. She is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."
- Arundhati Roy

Medusa’s Mind

Why do I call my blog Medusa’s mind?

A, because all literary discussions refer only to Medusa’s head but never her mind as if prompted by a natural presumption that Medusa would not have a mind or even if she did, it was not necessary to talk about her mind as it was to talk about her head considering the spectacle she offered. B, because my mind resembles Medusa’s a bit as serpent like thoughts seem to spring out of them all the time at any given moment. C, because I am in love with the spectacle called Medusa and the writhing snakes in her head which to me represent an extreme projection of a patriarchal anxiety of a woman with a potential mind and not just a body, an urgent need to render ugly and venomous and vicious the mind of a woman and then mythicise it through a repulsive yet fascinating graphic so that it has a permanent imprint on the collective unconscious of an entire community. Drawing attention to her head to distract attention from her mind. Or perhaps conflating the figurative ‘evil’ head with the metaphorical ‘evil’ mind implying any woman who is capable of thinking is apparently ‘evil’ and a threat to society.

Medusa wasn’t always like this. She was turned into a gorgon by Athena after she was raped by Poseidon. How different was it then from now? A woman subjected to anything ranging from censure to damnation and having to pay in addition to being raped, chastised and shamed by other women. Medusa also had the ability to turn people to stone, in other words literally petrify people. People who had one look at her turned to stone, so terrifying was her semblance. Were they terrified because of her ugliness or because she was different? Who decides what is ugly and repulsive, what is desirable and beautiful? Value assignment is a cultural exercise engineered through religious, mythological and folk narratives. A serpent is venomous but that venom acquires an attribute of a certain viciousness only through a human exercise of value judgment, through a perception that is subjective and therefore biased.

Poets, writers, artists and philosophers have had a long standing relation with Medusa. They are at once fascinated and repulsed by her. Attracted and terrified at the same time. Ugly or otherwise the serpents writhing and crawling on her head bespeak activity and movement suggesting a mind that is alive and if one were to extend the serpent metaphor, also a mind that can attack and resist and also sting if need be.

So Perseuses are created to behead the Medusas of the world, to rid the world of such contumelious and malevolent women. Does the act of Perseus beheading Medusa but retaining her head as a fancy weapon to terrify adversaries say anything about the politics of owning and appropriating? It could be read as laying claim over a woman’s mind or appropriating what was truly and originally her strength and prowess or subduing a woman different from her creed?

So coming back to Medusa’s mind, there could be thoughts that manifest themselves in this blog that are not exactly savoury or palatable, that might antagonise some and terrify others because they contest and challenge the given and the acceptable. But they will surely fascinate, impelling one to go beyond the agonising exterior of the gorgon realising it as a mask, symbolic of an arrested trauma and reconcile with reflections, opinions and musings that are off the beaten track.

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