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Archive for the ‘Varanasi’ Category

Meanwhile, UpriverMeanwhile, Upriver by Chatura Rao
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book is about the stories of two lonely persons in the city of Kashi. One an alleged bastard child of a Sadhu and other a fat lady, daughter of a priest. Each narrates his or her story, relating the incidents in their life. Over a period of time their lives cross each other and the lady takes the boy under her shelter. The book ends with them getting together.

The lady grows up as a lonely child as she has lost her mother at birth and in the joint family consisting of aunts and uncles on her paternal side she has nobody to look after her. She grows into a petulant, irritable, loud mouthed, “uncouth” lady with a soft heart. She fails to make any of the lads who come to see her for possible marriage to say yes to her. She finds the only person who does not say no, too old for her to marry. So she continues as a spinster and becomes a teacher in the local school. Her principal puts her in touch with a married British researcher who is looking for inputs on the city from the natives. In the process of giving him the details of the city, she falls for him and ends up starting to love him and starts enjoying physical relationship with him. Once when his wife has gone he takes her to his place. Her curiosity gets the better of her and she opens up the vanity dressing table of his wife and as she is checking out the contents he gets hold of her and berates her. She gets wild and flings what she has on the floor and leaves the house in a huff. That signals the end of the only loving she has ever know.

On the boy is brought up by a sadhu who is the head of an important ashram dedicated to Lord Shiva. He is sent to a school by the head who gives different stories about his birth at different times. He spends his time with his friends and at school. One of the servants of the sadhu is a muslim who is a potter. The boy spends a lot of time with him and his family which consists of a daughter about his age. He plays the role of the monkey in the Ramlila that takes place every year under the aegis of the King of Kashi. Finally a year comes when he is chosen to play the small Hanuman who will be crossing the sea to meet Sita in Lanka. A timid boy, son of a powerful politician, is selected to play the role of Sita. He finds himself on the wrong side of the teenage sons of powerful brahmins, who can now no longer participate in the Ramlila as they are no longer “innocent” enough. These boys are also sexually abusing the boy who is playing Sita. When the boy discovers this one fine day they boys put the blame on him and he is trashed to within an inch of his life.

The books ends with this incident when he is taken under the care of the lady in the first story.

It is a very difficult book to judge. It has its good parts and it has its mundane parts. It is a decent read.

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