"You can exorcise the devil... But how do you rid yourself of a god?" - "Cuckold" by Kiran Nagarkar
A Book Review by Rahul Khanna
(Courtesy of Rahul Khanna and intentblog.com)
This is my favorite line from a spectacular book I just finished reading.
I’ve never been a big fan of Indian fiction. Not for any reason other than the fact that I find the milieu too “familiar”. When I read a book I want to be thoroughly entertained and to be so, I need to be transported to a world as far removed as possible from the reality I know and I’ve just not had that much success finding that in books by Indian authors I've read so far.
That has changed with a book called Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar. It’s been consistently recommended to me for years and I’ve consistently resisted. Finally, last week, finding myself with some free time and nothing to read, I picked it up and it’s WONDERFUL.
Set in 16th Century India, Cuckold is a completely fictionalized account of a Rajput prince whose beautiful new bride refuses to let him enter her bed claiming she is in love with someone else – the Hindu god, Krishna! The prince’s frustration and introspection on his bizarre predicament is at the center of this incredible story. The interesting fact is that these people actually existed. The famous Indian saint Meerabai (who considered herself married to Krishna) was, in fact, a Rajput princess but virtually nothing is known of her marriage, her husband and her life before she renounced the material world and became a saint.
Written with a wonderful command over the language and in an easy and witty modern colloquial, Kiran Nagarkar has woven a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining epic around these characters, giving us an insight into what this unrecorded slice of history might have been. Bursting with mysticism, political intrigue and sexual decadence, the novel is set against the sumptuous backdrop of the Rajput wars of the time and also gives the reader an all-access pass to every aspect of palace life. From the strategizing of military formations to the scheming of powerful eunuchs in the harems, this delicious book has it all. It also has several beautiful and passionate love stories woven through it.
This book is fantastical, gritty, edgy, thrilling, hilarious, enlightening and heartbreaking all at once. But to try and sum it up in a few lines is to do it a great injustice. I’ve learned more from it than I ever learned from the sanitized portrayal of our history in our school textbooks.
I highly recommend it.
Actor Rahul Khanna made his feature film debut in Deepa Mehta's "Earth". His performance earned him several major Indian acting awards, including the prestigious Filmfare and Bollywood awards for Best Debut (2000). He was also named one of the 'Best and Brightest New Talents' of the Toronto International Film Festival (1998) by the Toronto Star newspaper. After studying at the famed Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and the School of Visual Arts in New York, Rahul began his career as a VJ with MTV Asia.
Read Kavita's interview with Rahul Khanna
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.
BOOK REVIEWS BY KAVITA:
100 Promises to My Baby - Kavita’s review of the touching first offering from Mallika Chopra, daughter of Dr. Deepak Chopra.
IIT: India’s Intellectual Treasures - Kavita’s review of the coffee table book by co-authors Suvarna Rajguru and Ranjan Pant (Indus Media, 2003).
India Unveiled - Robert Arnett’s beautiful portrait of the people, landscape and culture of India reviewed by Kavita. (Atman Press)
Finders Keepers? - Kavita’s review of the award-winning children’s book by Robert Arnett (Atman Press, 2003).
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