Gunahon ka Devta is a cult Hindi Novel by Dharamvur Bharti. Many people would tell you that you have not read Hindi novels until you have read this one. It had been on my wishlist for a long time, but maybe the time to read had come now.
Written and set in 1949 in Allahabad, just after India’s independence, the backdrop of this love story is the university environment but the story is human emotions. Chandra Kapur, the protagonist tries to set high standards for himself and for the woman he loves by taking the path of sacrifice. He not only sacrifices the one he loves but forces her to accept what he says. It is only after they are separated that they realize what it meant to be together and the longingness comes in the form of putting the other on the pedestal.
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There are 3-4 main characters, basically the male protagonist and 3 females that cross his path, all of who love him. He loves one of them. But tells her to marry someone her father has chosen for her. All other characters are really the supporting cast including the father and husband of the female protagonist. And the occasional friends or the servants in the family.
The couple tries to live up to high morals that they had set up for themselves by going against what every grain of their life wants. The author does not create any external reasons for taking this decision. Which I think is the beauty of the story. If there was an external reason, it would be easy to blame it. And move on, both for the characters and the readers. As the decision comes from the couple or rather from Chandra, the two try to deal with it in their own ways. He goes haywire and she takes to spirituality. The end will leave you sad, very sad. It will take your thoughts to the love you have felt in your life, and to people who you have felt that love for.
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Depth of Love
At one level, the story takes you to the depths that only love can show us. It shows you how deep the human connection can be. And how torn apart it can destroy the people who are so connected. At places, it also lets you question the whole morality that we associate with our lives when making critical decisions. We put society and its societal norms above our own heart and can it ever lead to happiness.
At another level, it shows you the spectrum of love through various shades of love. The love between the lead couple is as pure as it can get. Where they can do anything for each other, doing the biggest sacrifices. At another level, it is pure carnal desires that can engulf you. And almost help you get out of depressions and sorrows. In between, there is affection and attraction for someone you admire but you know can not get.
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Love Tragedy Story
You can also see this story as the ultimate love tragedy story. In the backdrop, it brings out the Allahabad of rich and famous. Those who could afford to have a car even in 1949. The book actually begins with a lovely and ironic description of the city that has the ability to hold extremely with ease.
The title of the book is oxymoronic. It says Gunahon which means crime, and Devta that means God. My interpretation of this is that though the protagonist acts as a Devta, he ends up committing many crimes. He is trying to behave like God. But he does not realize that it may be a crime in disguise for his love and himself and others who come in the way.
The language of the book is excellent. Here and there you hear the Purbi version of Hindi whenever there is a character from the village is shown. Most of the time it remains the classic Hindi with lovely metaphors sprinkled throughout the text. You enjoy the smooth flow of language, with perfectly used words to show the deepest human emotions.
Characters in the story
Each character is beautifully etched. It feels you know them well as soon as they are introduced. Each of them has flaws that keep them very human. The cultural nuances distinguish the characters very well. This could be a matter of time this story was written in. Today’s urban settings merge our cultural identities in the way that we are racing to be standard.
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If you can read Hindi, do read this book Gunahon Ka Devta – a cult love story.