On the Origin of “Birthing the Blue”
by Abha Iyengar
|“Birthing the Blue” appears in issue 465.|
Attending a workshop on speculative writing in Kanpur, I was returning one hot afternoon to my room when I saw a bird on the path, with a trail of blood near it. That gave rise to the opening lines of my story.
Ashraf Mian and The Crane were born the night of the sighting of the dead bird, for I had to produce a story overnight for the morning critique session. There is much to be said for writing under compulsion, it works for me, but that is a different story.
Originally, the person who stepped on the bird was not Ashraf Mian but a scientist-detective, let’s call him P. So the story has changed a lot till it reached this form, for P was executed due to feedback from group, he did not jibe with them.
With him was also thrown out all the futuristic, scientific stuff (chairs with arms that opened into hands that could press feet with varying frequencies as part of P’s home décor etc.) that I had lovingly put in.
However, Ashraf Mian and The Crane were a part of the original; it’s just that Ashraf Mian had to change his role a bit. Ashraf Mian was originally a bat, and he could change shape, so he worked in the kitchen of P as a chef (here as a human with bat like attributes), he was the Robin to P’s Batman.
And the original story was with P finding the child (the blue baby) on the banks of the Ganga with the not-so-obvious help of Ashraf Mian. The villain was The Crane, there was no Kansa. And “Birthing of the Blue” happened in the river waters inside a machine. So it was all very different.
At one point I also brought in a Raptor! I owe a lot to the feedback I have received to finally have this story the way it is.
Part of the story is born from the story of Krishna from Indian mythology. He was the eighth child of his mother, Devaki. Kansa was his uncle and a King. Kansa had received the boon of immortality, but since he turned cruel, the world had to be rid of him.
Vishnu (The Preserver God) was born in the form of Krishna (Vishnu appeared on earth in various avatars, and avatar is a Hindi word) to get rid of Kansa. Kansa knew that the eighth child of his sister would kill him, so he imprisoned his sister and her husband and killed the children, but the eighth one, Krishna, survived to kill Kansa.
My story uses this basis but twists the tale where Kansa becomes a female Kangaroo who has received immortality but will die if she becomes a mother. She too gets killed by the eighth child of her sister.
Though the gods grant the boon of immortality where it cannot be denied, they always put a caveat. In other words, everything comes at a price. And if you misuse your boons, then you have just about had it.
Why so much blue? Krishna is shown as blue in all his pictures (his colour is supposed to be what Indians lovingly call sawlan: not too fair and not too dark, and it is a colour that is supposed to have a certain attraction all its own), and so his blueness was something I also worked into the story, creating an imaginary blue world.
This could be considered a modern-day fable, though I never set out to write a fable. It just progressed to become what it is today, and I do love this tale. The parts with the Raptor and the Panther (oh yes, at one time there was a panther too) which were eliminated, may become part of another tale.
Krishna, the colour blue, and peacocks featured a great deal in the stories that I wrote at that time, and I have been teased about it. But as a mortal, I can get away with my obssessions.
Thanks for reading,
Copyright © 2012 by Abha Iyengar