The book on TBF today is Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar. It is a historical fiction based on the lives of Prince Bhojraj and Meera Bai.
The story is set in Mewar, following the heir apparent, Maharaj Kumar and the tumultuous relationship he shares with his wife. When on his wedding night his wife tells him that she can’t be his wife since she has been promised to someone else. This angers him and he brutally rapes her, shaming her and also, himself. His promises to love and protect her lay broken as he holds back no moment to hurt her, physically and mentally, harassing her to know the name of her lover. Amidst his personal chaos, the politics of his step mother and her son keep him on the edge who want the throne for themselves. When through trickery he finds letters she has written to her lover, he is flabbergasted to know that he is competition with no mortal but the blue God, Krishna himself. Believing it to be a ruse to hide the real identity of the lover he tries every measure to find the truth until it finally dawns on him that she is telling the truth.
The anguish and helplessness of Maharaj Kumar and the inability to be able to compete with a God takes a toll on his mental health. The page by page recount of this very gut wrenching feeling of being unable to do anything but watch as your world collapses around you is truly heartbreaking. At times I wanted to keep reading on and at times, I just wanted to fling it far away because I couldn’t take it anymore.
Where do songs go when you cease to hear them? Where does the turbulence of the air disappear after thousands of birds flap their wings homeward at eventide? Where are the cries of the Rajput women who spatter their red palm prints on the wall and leap into the flames of johar? Where is my childhood, my catapult, my broken slate, my first parrot, my youth and first sin and all those that followed, where is my old age and the first time I saw the woman from Merta? Ask Gambhiree. She knows it all.”
The political games of the people around him make for an interesting read which shows his veneer of valour and patience run thin. You also feel a tug of affection for his wife as she struggles to stay loyal to both the blue God as well as her husband.
“If not absolution, I yelled, give me oblivion.”
I think what makes it even more stunning is the language and writing style. It is like word porn, making the reader sing and sigh at the way the most miserable situations are narrated and explained. I think if it wouldn’t have made such a huge impact on me had the langauge and writing style been different because the major pulse of the story was the way it was told. It made me scream and yell with anger and amazement all at the same time. Kiran Nagarkar surely is a master wordsmith and I mentally kept smacking my self for not picking his works up earlier.
After The Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, this is the first book that gave me a major hangover. I was unable to read anything else for days as the void of the end of the story kept digging at me. It is not the happiest of stories and for someone like me to recommend something like this is truly a first timer but in all honesty, this book deserves it. True, it is a bit long and if you aren’t one for long descriptions of battles and strategies and political games, it might test your patience but stick to it. I implore anyone everyone to read this to know the true worth of our indian literature. Absolutely in love and miserable, it is a 5 star read like to other.
“I am a very possessive woman. But I knew that if I were to keep you, I would have to let go of you.“
Until next time!