Diva for a season

Matani Shakya, 3, newly appointed 'kumari,' or living goddess in Nepal, looks on as farewell rituals are performed before taking her to kumari house in Katmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. Selected between the ages of 2 and 4, living goddesses are worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists. Devotees touch the girls' feet with their foreheads, the highest sign of respect among Hindus in Nepal. During religious festivals the girls are wheeled around on a chariot pulled by devotees. (AP Photo/Binod Joshi)

Meet Matani Shakya, the new living goddess of Nepal. She’s a cutie patootie and all of 3 years old. After going through a selection process which includes spending the night in a room with the severed heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear, she won the contest, amidst other 2-4 year olds. What does she get as the new living goddess? She will live in a palace, be waited on hand and foot, wear only red, have her hair pinned in a topknot at all times and be worshipped by Hindus and Bhuddists. Oh, and did I mention that her parents will not be moving into the palace with her? Oh no – she will be in “almost complete isolation” while living in said palace.

This story tugs at my heart, especially being a mother. But it gets worse. When she hits puberty and starts her period, she will lose her status as the living goddess and be sent “home” while another little goddess takes her place. No more palatial treatments or people bowing at her little pedicured feet. She’s abruptly thrust into a “normal” life consisting of chores, rules, PMS and teenage drama, with no Dr. Phil or therapy sessions to help her make the transition. I can hear the groans of commiseration with her hapless parents from all the parents of pre-teens out there. What’s more – get this! – folklore has it that men who marry former living goddesses die young, so she won’t exactly have a long line of suitors competing for her hand in marriage. In fact, many former goddesses “remain unmarried and face a life of hardship.”

My heart is so heavy, I don’t even know how to end this post. I’ll just stop here. [sigh!]