Vasudev – Narendra Kohli

I picked up and read a Hindi book after a long long time. Narendra Kohli had been on my ‘To Read’ list for a long time now. I had heard a lot about his contemporary style in Hindi writing. So, I wanted to try that and when I found myself in front of Hindi section in landmark, I could not help but buy at least one book of his. By the way, it is really rare to find a good collection of Hindi books in Bangalore and that too in the big book stores. So, the fact that Landmark did have a decent collection gladdened my heart.

Vasudev is a book about the struggles of Devki and Vasudev after there is a ‘bhavishyavani’ that their 8th son will kill the ruling king ‘Kans’ who also happens to be Devki’s brother. How they face the death of their 6 children in front of their eyes as soon as they are born. How their relationship evolves over the years which started with a sword hanging over their heads. How they come to believe in the power which is something beyond, something which is making them do things. How they manage to save their 7th and 8th sons and how they finally come and kill Kans. How there is a struggle and jealousy between the mothers to be able to prove who loves these two sons the most. And, who is a real mother?? One who conceives you or one who receives and nurtures you?

It is all these questions and many more which Narendra Kohli has asked and answered in this novel about the birth and coming of age of Krishna. He has included all the stories of the mythology and has tried to tie them in a logical sequence. Many of the stories have traditionally included many supernatural elements, which Narendra Kohli has tried to rationalize and present as human acts but cruel to the level of being inhuman and unnatural. This makes the book more palatable for a logical/rational audience while keeping alive the relish of a god like figure who is all powerful and does some unbelievable tricks once in a while.

It’s well written but a bit long and I felt that it got too preachy towards the end. It drifted towards the same archaic ‘sacrificial’ supremacy which has been advocated since a really long time in Hindi literature. I cannot say about others but it does not appeal to me. So, while the beginning and middle were good, end seemed forced and contrived.

Still,  it is one of the finer books to read in Hindi.



Gunahon ka Devta – Dharmvir Bharti

Honestly, when I started the book, I did not expect it to be too great. I bought it because I had heard it was a classic in Hindi literature and I expected something solid for sure, but , nothing this extraordinary.

Right from the very beginning, the story, the characters, the setup, everything just engulfed me into this book. The characters are so complex, so rich, so varied. The story is an intricate weave of intense and light emotions alike. There are contrasts and similarities and they are very appropriately placed. There are ideological debates about platonic and carnal love, about love and arranged marriage, about Hindu customs, about sacrifice and acceptance and denial. The book deals with white, black and grey areas of life of the two protagonists, Chander and Sudha and the supporting cast. The depiction of lives, the conversations, the situations, the feelings are all so perfectly written that not once will your imagination fail you. It is intense, and tragic and deep story about love and passion and its pains and sacrifices and gains.

The book is remarkable not only because of its touching and excellent storyline but also because of the use of language and technical excellence in writing. Even when he describes the sex scenes, not once is there anything vulgar. The words are poetic and beautiful. The conversations between Sudha and Chander are light and flirty as they should be to give us the exact view of their relationship which is that of deepest devotion and love but of which they are unaware. He paints a contrast so well. While the relationship between Sudha and Chander is that of a god and its devotee, that of Pammi and Chander is that of bodily needs and very human in nature. Bharti ji also discusses philosophies of love and life and argues it from every viewpoint. He never fully segregates views and elevates one or the other. He gives reasons for both. Chander is not ashamed of what he did and Sudha does not blame him either. What they find initially difficult and later come to accept is that when you are going platonic, exclusivity becomes difficult because bodily needs come in and then all one has is trust in the love of each other.

I just can’t get it out of mind. It is marvellous. A book says all about its authors creative genius and Bharti Ji gets full points here. I would go as far as to say that Chander and Sudha are as great literary characters as Romeo and Juliet, Heer and Ranjha ,as Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza.  If only, this reached a wider audience, more people would get to see the genius of Bharti ji.

Nirmala – Premchand

I really wish to read the Hindi books again which I had left and its been quite a time now. And what better way to start than with one of the greatest figures of Hindi literature – Munshi Premchand. His works have always besotted me and reminded me that this is my land and that how much of a different and endearing feeling it is to read a work in one’s own mother tongue. I just loved reading it.

Nirmala is a story of a little girl who is married at an age of 15 to a person who is 20 years elder to her  after her first marriage being cancelled due to dowry reasons. Nirmala’s husband tries all tactics to woo her but she has only respect and a sense of duty for him and not the love which he expects to develop in her. By his first wife, Totaram has three sons and the eldest is just one year elder to Nirmala. Nirmala who is so tender and inexperienced does not understand that why she likes being with the eldest son and hates her husband. Why she can be comfortable with the son but becomes uncomfortable at even the sight of his man. Then by the inferiority complex and Nirmala’s cold attitude towards Totaram, a seed of mistrust is sown and from there starts the downfall of everything which Nirmala lays her hands on. One by one all the sons die. They lose all wealth and property. Some other deaths also occur.

The most noticeable thing is that how he can write so poignantly by creating a situation rather than depending heavily on words. He makes the reader feel rather than tell him/her what to feel. It is a readerly text than writerly. His comparisons, similes and idioms usage is well timed and well thought and piercing. The themes of his novel are the social ills and how despite being common that they are, have the potential to wreck whole families. Nirmala is a tragedy and it moves you. The real success of an author lies in the fact that the reader should continue to think about the characters and the situations long even after he has read them. And I continue to do so. For me Nirmala is a work of a man who is a brilliant author.

Goo dreading. Easily recommended.!