Lost phone? Dial a prayer

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When Lavanya Mohan loses her iPhone, she is forced to appeal to the unseen hand of god.

Illustration: Mihir Balantrapu

A week ago, I misplaced my iPhone at home. This is something that happens to me almost every other day. I’d have brought it out of my room while going out to make coffee, and somewhere between catching up with the news and chasing behind my dog, I’d place my phone in the most random of places, and spend a frantic five minutes searching for it before leaving for work.

Last week was different because even after a good 15 minutes of what I thought constituted thorough searching, I couldn’t find it. I dialled my number a couple of times before I realised that it was on ‘silent mode’. I then used the “Find My Phone” app on my computer which only showed the phone to be at home — information both reassuring and frustrating. I increased the volume of the tracking sound from the app. Two tries later, my phone had shut itself off because my efforts had drained the weak battery. I even checked the garbage can but to no avail. My phone was lost without me even stepping out.

I finally gave up one-and-a-half hours later and was on my way out to work when my grandmother-in-law, who saw me pass by so obviously late, asked me what happened. I narrated the curious incident, and she told me to pray to Kartaveeryarjuna and recite his sloka.

“You’ll definitely find it,” she said confidently.

I nodded and left.

Now Kartaveeryarjuna, despite having his own set of slokas, or chants, wasn’t a “god” per se. While I don’t know how he became the guardian of all things lost, I do know that he was a very powerful king — so powerful that Vishnu had to make a trip down to Earth and evolve into an avatar to destroy him. Kartaveeryarjuna was a king who was born of great penance. His father, Kartaveerya of the Haiheya dynasty had a thousand wives but no children (Just to clarify things, Kartaveerya is the father, and Kartaveeryarjuna is the son. Consider it an ancient way of using initials).

So, the king, who was now tired and clearly frustrated, decided to perform penance for Vishnu and left for the mountains with Padmini, one of his many wives in tow. He meditated for 10,000 years, but Vishnu didn’t so much as blink. Padmini, who was with him the entire time (life expectancy rates those days were off the charts), became worried for his health and went to Anasuya, a great devotee of Vishnu, and asked her for a solution. Anasuya told her to fast on two special Ekadesis. And so Padmini fasted and chanted the glories of Vishnu.

By the end of her fast, Vishnu appeared before her, thoroughly pleased with her sincere devotion, and asked her to tell him what she so desired. Predictably, she asked him to grant her husband what he wanted. Kartaveerya wanted and received a son “who will never be conquered by the demigods, human beings, snakes, demons, or hobgoblins”, but can only be destroyed by Lord Vishnu himself.

Thus was born Kartaveeryarjuna, the king with a thousand arms. So powerful was he that he ruled for 85,000 years from his kingdom’s capital, Mahishmati (If the name Mahishmati sounds familiar, it’s because that was the same capital which was used in the film, Bahubali) with perfect health, strength and prosperity. Kartaveeryarjuna isn’t a very popular character in Indian mythology, at least not as popular as he should be because there isn’t much we know about those 85,000 years he ruled other than two very specific incidents.

The first was when he humbled Ravana for attacking him — the demon king was put in a cage by Kartaveeryarjuna and paraded around the streets of Mahishmati like a common monkey. The only important detail you need to know from this story, apart from the fact that Ravana was punished for just daring to fight with him, is that Ravana was actually minding his own business and was provoked by Kartaveeryarjuna.

The second incident is the story of his death. He was killed by Parashurama, the bloodthirsty, sixth avatar of Vishnu, who didn’t just kill Kartaveeryarjuna, but also took the trouble of going around the world 21 times over to rid the world of the Kshatriya (warrior) race altogether.

There is another popular belief that Kartaveeryarjuna was, in fact, the reincarnation of Vishnu’s Sudharshana Chakra, the powerful discus weapon that he has used to behead very many rakshasas. Legend has it that one day, the Sudharshana Chakra got annoyed that sage Narada, while singing praises of Vishnu, had completely ignored him, and sourly claimed that Vishnu wouldn't have been able to defeat those that he had without him. Vishnu, ever the one for a challenge, told the Chakra to go down to earth as a thousand-armed king (an arm for each spoke), and that they could pit their strength against each other there. The Chakra, born as Kartaveeryarjuna, eventually lost to Parashurama (Vishnu), and thus, finally learned the point of its 85,000-year-old lesson.

Twenty-four hours had passed since my phone had switched itself off, and soon enough, it even disappeared from the location map from Apple’s “Find My Phone” app. When I was at work the next day, distraught and distracted by the void that my phone had left in my routine, I repeatedly thought about Kartaveeryarjuna. Here was a king who had a thousand hands; a king so powerful that the most dangerous and mighty demon of them all was reduced to a showpiece; a king who ruled the world for 85,000 years! Why would he bother with something like my phone?

But then again, we are talking about a king with a thousand hands; a king so powerful that the most dangerous and mighty demon of them all was reduced to a showpiece; a king who ruled the world for 85,000 years! Perhaps, he might lend me one, out of those thousand hands, for my cause. I had searched an entire day and failed. Surely, I didn’t have much to lose now? I threw all caution and doubt to the wind, looked up the sloka and said it.

“O! King with a Thousand Arms,” I beseeched him. “Help me find this damned iPhone.”

My mother-in-law called me two hours later. The phone had been found … in the fridge.

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