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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: The Kaafir’s Love by Abhisar Sharma

A book written by Abhisar Sharma is always a treat to read. I remember calling him ‘India’s answer to Frederick Forsyth’ in the review of ‘The Edge of the Machete’. There is hardly a match for him, when it comes to writing thrillers, and his latest book ‘The Kaafir’s Love’ is no exception.

As the name suggests, the book is essentially a love story – but in India, love can be life-threatening. India is a country with her feet in the 21st century, but her heart and mind in the eighteenth century. Regressive beliefs, predominance of faith in decision-making, sinister politicking, rigid caste equations are pulling this country backward even as we talk of bullet trains and digital boom. In the age of anti-Romeo squads and honour killings, it is hazardous and perilous to fall in love. Sameer, the protagonist of this novel committed that mistake.

Sameer, a young lad from the lower echelons of the society, lives in the ‘Walled City’ in Chandni Chowk. As luck would have it, he is smitten by Inara, the daughter of the local businessman, Imtiaz, who has his fingers in all the wrong pies for money-making. Although Naseer, Sameer’s bosom-buddy, tries to dissuade the latter, he pursues Inara and they fall in love.

Even as two young hearts committed themselves to each other in the ‘Walled City’, the socio-political amity of the neighbourhood is dealt a blow by two successive incidents. As the city is brought to the brink of a communal backlash, the young lovers decide to elope.What follows is a thrilling tale of betrayal, savagery, and kitchen politics. Old skeletons tumble out of the closet, upsetting equations.

The most enjoyable element of this book is its thrill quotient and the element of surprise. The moment you start expecting the plot to traverse a linear trajectory, a sudden twist changes the course of events. Abhisar’s lucid writing, and the vivid imagery of his words transform the novel into a ‘motion picture’ of sorts. From passionate descriptions of Sameer-Inara’s intimate moments to gruesome scenes of brutal violence – Abhisar’s detailed narrative does not let your attention slack.

It is true that the overall plot bears slight resemblance to the movie ‘Sairat’, only the caste division replaced with religious tension. But then this could well have been Abhisar’s take on Romeo and Juliet, in an Indian setting. That is the universality of the core concept of ‘The Kaafir’s Love’. This is not just a love story, but a social commentary on the current socio-political situation prevalent in the country.

‘The Kaafir’s Love’ is the perfect companion for an idyllic Sunday afternoon.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by the author.



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