Book Review – Mohini – The Enchantress by Anuja Chandramouli

Whenever I get the opportunity to read a book penned by Anuja Chandramouli I never let go of it. She is not only a bestselling author but has added a unique touch to retelling tales from Indian mythology. I have been her fan ever since I read her debut novel ‘Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince’.

The most striking facet of her books is the mainstreaming of lesser known characters – whether it is Kamadeva or Yama’s Lieutenant, Ganga or now Mohini. Anuja always gives a voice to the marginalised. And after the feminist touch in Shakti, and Ganga, Anuja brings us a forgotten LGBT character from the mythology – Mohini.

We are all aware of the legend of ‘Samudra Manthan’ and how ‘Amrit’ emerged from the sea. The Devas and Asuras were on the verge of another war over it, when Vishnu took the form of an enchantress and hoodwinked the Asuras. Set against this celestial quest for immortality, Anuja Chandramouli brings to life the tale of Mohini.

Mohini – the name itself means enchantress. We all imagine her as a seductive woman, blessed with extraordinary charm. She is a part of Vishnu, and yet she is independent in her meanderings. She enjoys her autonomy. With her beauty, she can easily enchant the mightiest of kings. She is desired by all, yet she is elusive.

With her lyrical prose, Anuja takes us on a journey of love, lust, desire. She explores the binaries of gender, bringing to light hitherto lesser known tales, which had got lost in the sands of time. Through her magical imagery, we get a fresh glimpse at stories, which we were all so acquainted with. One can always enrich their vocabulary while reading Anuja’s works.

Overall, ‘Mohini – The Enchantress’ is a fitting addition to the rich series of Indian mythological fiction that Anuja Chandramouli has created. It is worthwhile to revisit our rich culture, sans the dogmatic approach, and enjoy soaking in the tales of strong, independent characters, who refuse to be reduced to mere bystanders in the grand scheme of events.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

DISCLAIMER: The Review Copy of the book was provided to me by the author

Book Review – A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Facebook. Even a decade ago this word would have elicited raised eyebrows as response. But thanks to the digital revolution, it has now become a household name. It is here that we keep in touch with friends and family, binge on funny videos, connect with strangers, and vent out our feelings.

Imagine, if you were sent to jail for a post on Facebook? Sounds dystopian? Well, that’s the theme of this pacy thriller penned by debutante author Megha Majumdar.

Hailed by the media in America as the next Jhumpa Lahiri, Megha Majumdar paints a world we are too familiar with. Nothing is out of the ordinary here. We come across a girl living in a slum, who works at a fashion retail shop to support her family. We become acquainted with a transgender, who aspires to become an actress. Then there is the PT teacher at a school, who wants to break free from the mundane existence.

A Burning is a breezy read

And then, there is the society we all live in. Here, destitute citizens are pushed to the brink for ‘development’, women are forced to buy groceries in the dead of the night to save money, doctors do not feel the urgency to attend to a patient because he is from the lowest rungs of the society, a boy belonging to the lower echelons has to pay entry fee at a posh mall.

This is a society where a religious minority is killed on the suspicion of eating a particular meat, where the onus of proving innocence is on the accused, not the prosecutor, where judgments are passed to satisfy the collective conscience of the people, the media is only looking for headlines and politicians eye just the votes.

We are all familiar with this society. Then why does Megha Majumdar’s book feel dystopian? Because truth is always stranger than fiction, and we choose to believe we live in a fantasy world of ‘good days’ than face the reality. Megha hits the nail on the coffin of ‘reality’ hard, with the sharp satire and ruthless portrayal of plain happenstance.

As one reads through the pages, the sorrow-state of affairs in our la-la land becomes more and more acute. Images from the past haunt you, make you feel guilty – of being the silent majority. ‘A Burning’ is an indictment of not the government or the ‘system’. It is a document of rebuke – because we have allowed the country to descent into madness, systematically.

Jivan – the protagonist – could be any of us. It could be Sudha Bhardwaj, it could be Safoora Zargar. It could also be Afzal Guru. Or Dhananjay Chatterjee. Faces change. Contexts change. The story remains the same. We begin by empathising with Jivan, but choose to emulate PT Sir in our lives. Megha’s brilliance lies in capturing this convenience. ‘A Burning’ reminds us that we all are the ‘ghosts of the future’.

My rating: 4/5 stars

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