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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Currently Reading: Varanasi

A good book raises you to heights. You resonate with the characters and immerse yourself in their lives, places, and thoughts. After a long time I am reading one such book – Varanasi, by the Malayalam writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair. Coincidentally this is also a long time since I am reading a physical book and I keep half expecting being able to highlight text or long press a word to get its meaning. I am a wee bit excited too; the sensation of holding a physical book and reading from it thrills me for some reason.

This must be the fourth book by M.T. Vasudevan Nair that I have read. The first two were in college, as part of my humanities class, wherein we were supposed to read an author of our choice and present the work in class. If I remember correctly I read Asuravithu (Demon Seed) and Naalukettu and I loved the way M.T. wrote. I think I associated his writing to the way one paints. It’s very visual and I got the feeling of someone drawing his characters with broad strokes and then building them up with detailed strokes. (Before I forget, being a Malayalam author all these works are originally in Malayalam and what I read were the English translations).

The third book I read was Randamoozham (Second Turn). This was a mind-blowing read. It tells the story of Mahabharatha from the point of view of Bhima, the second Pandava. The title was meant to reflect that this is a second look at the Mahbharata and also that this look is from the second son. Bhima is unique in that he is the second son. So he doesn’t get the importance of the first born nor does he get pampered like the third and later borns. Moreover Bhima is usually associated with someone who is all muscle and no emotions, so it’s interesting how M.T. infuses this character with layers of feelings and emotions and retells the whole tale through his eyes.

While on holiday last week, I bought Varanasi and Kaalam. Currently reading Varanasi and it’s been a great experience so far. I love the characters and what they are doing. There isn’t much direction to the story really; it is just about the main character and his experiences, the people he encounters, the women in his life. But I loved the setting – Kashi, Varanasi – so there’s lot of philosophical undercurrents too. The narrative too is very different. M.T. keeps jumping between the past and present, and uses first person, second person, and third person – often even mixing them up! That’s quite daring and in a lesser author’s hands it might have failed and confused the reader, but not with M.T.

About half way done now. Bought the book yesterday so you can see I’ve been avidly reading it. I am reading two other books side-by-side, which I’ll talk about later.