Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar

I had recently got to read the novel 'Cuckold' by Kiran Nagarakar. Though i had picked the book from a local library without much interest and expectation, i found the book very absorbing and an engaging read from the first page to the last. I even fancied abandoning the book in the middle, as i had gained a fair idea of how the narrative was headed, after jumping to the last few pages. But going back to where i had stopped, the book kept drifting me on its course of ups and downs.

Kiran Nagarkar has chosen a very crucial period in Indian history and chosen the grand backdrop of the Rajputs of Mewar to unfold the drama. He has chosen a non entity person, that the Mainstream history had chosen to forget and ignore blisfully and made him the hero and Narrator of his 600 page novel. It is probably Nagarkar's way of saying his sympathies lies with the person ignored by the mainstream.

It is amazing how much drama this 'cuckold' was privy and fulcrum to. He was the Heir apparent to the Rana Sangha under whose leadership the Rajputs, otherwise known for internecine rivalries, united and achieved major millitary success. This was also a time when Mughals enter and start setting house in India and the Rana has a role to play in it too.

If this political history is not inspiring and dramatic enough, our protagonist's personal life is a book of colourful drama in itself. He was married to a girl, who is enamored by the blue God and who would go on to inspire a new Bhakthi cult under the name of Meera. The prince' predicament with an 'unfaithful' wife, whom he can't seem to let go, and the blemishes he suffers for being 'un manly' in taming his wife offer fertile grounds for imagination.

The length of the novel sees the destiny of our prince toggle between the title of Maharaj Kumar and Rajkumar, and there in lies the twists and turns in the novel. It's quite another thing that the princess sees a steady rise in her profile grow from a unfaithful wife, a nsutch girl, the dervish, the little saint, to the favourite bahu of the Rana.

Having chosen such a feisty bunch of characters from history to people his novel, Kiran Nagarkar has expanded and beautifully illustrated the canvas of his novel by  weaving in history and fiction in a very fine texture and giving us an astounding Historical novel to relish.  

KN has painted his protagonist in vivid colours exploring his sense of duty and allegiance to tradition as a proud Rajaput, a husband struggling to live with a wife who has given herself up to Krishna, a devout friend who embarrassingly finds himself bedding his best  friend's mother, a passionate lover who would forsake his love, lest should the age old traditions that form the foundation of Rajput world be broken, and finally a warrior who wants to stay ahead of enemies and win wars with sound strategies, without losing a single soldier.

KN brings in grand visuals the entire theater of the Rajput way of life and rule, Their stickling for traditions and Heirarchy, and the high sense of drama in the novel is the stuff that should easily inspire a Sanjay leels Bansali film. 

 The interesting relation between the various stakeholders,  The contrast between the Jain way of life and that of the Rajputs and the ironies of the Jains financing the war from both sides, invokes instances from modern day war games of the world. 

KN uses this narrative from the 'cuckold's point of view to confound us with uneasy questions about the meaning of ideals of bravery, manhood, sacrifice, etc. He doesn't miss a hit at the epic of Mahabharata- and the ideal of Bhishma it projects giving it a new folkosh twist.

KN introduces us to the whole gamut of a Rajput courtly life, their relationship with neighbors, their approach to rising Muslim kingdoms, new warfare, etc and the role their women played in their destinies.

The court conspiracies for succession hangs around the protagonist's neck through out the entire novel. The protagonist's well intended actions and his good nature and the poor fate that follows him all make the reader pine and wish well for him. But the title of the novel and the history all stand against him and the reader is only kept waiting how the hero, painted so magnificently and loving is going to slip into doom.