Kamadeva the God of Desire by Anuja Chandramouli
It’s the era of revival and re-interpretation of Indian history and mythology. Young authors are reading the scriptures, reading commentaries on them and then re-writing the epics or the stories thereof – adding their own interpretations, meaning and the contemporary contexts. Kamadeva – the God of Desire, makes a special appearance in our epics. He makes an appearance whenever the higher Gods need his help and afterward, he seems to be living happily with his wife in Amravati. Not many of us have heard his story in isolation. So this was quite a tempting book to pick up.
Anuja has picked all the episodes in Puranas and Itinhaas. Where Kamadeva made an appearance and she weaves it into a lovely story. The story obviously begins with the birth of Kamadeva to Brahma. Tracing the curse that is born with him that he would die at the hands of Shiva. Whom the author chooses to call ‘The Destroyer’ throughout the book. It talks about Rati his wife and their passionate relationship and their stay in Amravati – in the kingdom of Indra. He is called upon from time to time to use his arrows to invoke love and passion. In certain being in a way that serves their purpose.
Rati is projected as the fierce lady who is as much a force as Kamadeva himself. When the curse comes true and Kamadeva is destroyed by Shiva, Rati refuses to accept this. Then they are both reborn on earth. And live a life that fulfills another of the game plans of the Gods. Later they return to their earlier lives and leave us with an assumption – happily ever after. If you have grown up on mythological tales, you would have heard most of the episodes in the book. There are not too many of them. You may not though have thought about their sequence. So from that perspective, this book gives Kamadeva a point of view in the epic tradition.
What makes this particular storytelling very contemporary is its language. The uninhibited language which Anuja uses especially for conversations between the characters is quite unusual. Given the context in which we have heard these stories and the reverence with which we treat these characters. The banter between Rati and Kamadeva both in Amravati and in their earthly avatars are something that the today’s reader will connect very well with. I have read author’s earlier book Arjuna as well. And I think she has grown as a writer manifold. The language is smooth and it flows through the narrative. Especially when there are long dialogues and never-ending debates between various characters.
My only small issue with this book is its length. Since not much is happening in most of the episodes, sometimes the descriptions, the dialogues seem to stretch a bit. I think the author could have avoided the whole re-telling of Mahabharata towards the end. As a reader who picks up a book on Kamadeva would at least know the outline story of Mahabharata. I found it interesting that the author chooses to call Arjuna – the hero of her previous book a dumb fellow. Highlighting the fact that storytellers make or break heroes depending upon whose angle they choose to highlight. Having said that, it is also a sign of maturity. As an author can have two contradictory views at the same time.
I enjoyed reading the book. If you like Indian mythology and the God of Desire tickles your curiosity – read it.