Monday, June 30, 2008

A Theory-Laden Bore

Krishna Dharawasi is a terrible novelist and theory-laden bore.
Dharawasi has published many books and is a well-known writer. His novel Radha was awarded with Madan Puraskar. Is an award, be that Madan or whatever, the measuring rod for the nicety of a novel? I beg to differ. By the way, is the large number of sale another measuring rod? No. Krishna Aviral’s artistically appalling, controversy-benefited novel Raktakunda was the largest selling Nepali novel (his own claim). The only means of knowing whether a novel is good or bad, I feel, is its appeal to the sensibilities of the reader. Dharawasi in Radha fails miserably in doing that.
Radha is a so-called postmodern novel. It interprets the myth of the Pauranik character, Radha, into modern conditions. The character of Radha has been terribly politicized in the novel. Unlike the comely, bona-fide, ever-waiting beloved of Krishna in the Puranas, this Radha is the blasé spokesperson for deconstructive-feminist postulations. She has become the unannounced champion for the cause of feminist liberation. However, this supposedly strong lady is in a terrible dilemma in regards to her incessant love for Krishna and his polygamy. On the one hand she loves Krishna while on the other she is appalled by Krishna’s “lust.” How can these two conflicting emotions be brought together? Dharawasi and his Radha are superficial thinkers in that they overlook the basic notion of marriage. When a girl feels that the boy can give her security, she marries that boy. Of course, there should be love but security comes first. 16,100 captured women were rescued by Krishna and they felt protected under the aegis of Krishna therefore they requested him to marry them. What is so wrong in it?
The problem has been created by Dharawasi’s pertinacity to humanize the divine power to make his mythical story relevant to the modern context. He is at pains to swallow the huge numbers of the wives of Krishna. The Arab sheikhs and sultans too border and consummate a large number of wives and concubines in their harems even in this age but 16,108 wives for a “skinny black man”? You must be joking. In the Bhagavat Purana, Narada, too, is astounded by the number of Krishna’s wives and goes to Dwaraka to inquire about Krishna’s maintenance of this huge household. He sees as many Krishna with as many wives in as many palaces and acknowledges Krishna’s divine power. But Dharawasi’s Krishna is a puny human being and he seems misfit in the shoes of divine Krishna. The writer claims that he has written a modern Purana in the form of a novel but he hesitates to scale the heights of the Puranas. He allies with the postmodern thinkers but has not come out of the clutches of “enlightenment thinking” because he is afraid by the viability demanded by constraining science and technology. His is not the eastern postmodernism (otherwise he must have some inkling towards magic realism) but he spews western postmodernism he has obtained through cheap Hindi translations.
I feel that Dharawasi’s characters are horribly misfit ones. Radha seems odd in her feminist postulations. Her regular talk of deconstruction does not make sense. Yashoda’s castigation of Nanda is soap-opera- like melodramatic. She scolds Nanda for the exchange of her own daughter for Krishna. Now, a child is about to be killed and the only means of safety is to take him away to a secure place. Vasudev did exactly that. Nanda helped him in this. Yes, Nanda gave his own daughter to be sacrificed but Kamsa could never kill that girl as she assumed the form of Devi and vanished into thin air. The bartering of Krishna proved to be extremely beneficial for dharma while the girl’s contribution was to instill constant fear and torment in Kamsa. There is nothing to have brouhaha here. In Radha, that girl is not killed and lives in the palace of Kamsa. She is named Eknaasha. Her maudlin talk with Radha in the novel brings tears all right but these tears to the readers but they are the consequences of utter boredom. Similarly, the other women characters like the gopinis of Gokul-Vraj are brave and enduring but making them seem like Maoist guerillas is awful. Dharawasi is fascinated by the Maoist warfare. The Vraj and Gokulvasis adopt the strategy of cordoning the city of Mathura through the villages by exactly following Mao’s line of attack. Again the invention of this warfare is not up to snuff.
There are plenty of lacunae in the novel which takes unnecessary space if all of them are discussed. As a final gloss in the novel, I want to talk about the designing of the chapters. The chapters of the novel are so shabbily designed that question can be raised about Dharawasi’s audacity to be called a novelist. One chapter should contain one event but actions pop out haphazardly in the middle of the chapter. One sequence suddenly comes to a halt in the middle of a chapter and suddenly another sequence starts. The postmodern dunder- heads may hoot like jackals in singing one after another lyrical praises about the so-called postmodern techniques employed in the narrative but for me it is a fractured and repulsive technique. Actually, postmodernism is a pointless hullabaloo forwarded by the jaded intellectuals and it has no relation with the real world. The Faustian fascination for knowledge in human beings has been exploited by the numskulls who have bought this nonsense to the fore. But writers like Dharawasi are foolishly attracted to it and more than that they apply it in their narratives and render them lifeless. I do not want to flog the dead horse, so read the novel once to know it yourself. If you are looking to take pleasure in a good story you may skip the novel.

With inputs from Samipyaraj Timalsina

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