Larger Than Life

I cut my teeth on tales of never-say-die grit, impossible generosity and loves that defied death. A grandfather is known for having gifted a brand new Dodge to the family doctor who could not start his own rattletrap in time for a small emergency. A distant relative mourned her husband for sixteen years by wearing white and refusing to step out of the house. I recall watching with a four-year-old’s awe when an uncle smashed his fist through window panes every time he had a fight with his girlfriend. (Well…not so grand a gesture but still…intense!) He also drank a bottle of Dettol once—but that is another story.

Today love with all its passions and pains is now battered down to a diminutive ‘lv’ as its travels in mindless forwards through text messages. The grandeur of sex with all its inherent pining, longing and fulfillment is down to slap-bang and what-did-you-say-your-name-was coupling. And who has the time to wallow in the pleasure-pain of a true-blue heartbreak!

 I think human beings have shortchanged all that makes us human. The rat race has shorn us of emotions. So much so that we bury/cremate a parent and go back to work the next day because it would cut into our annual leave. Practicality? Or just a plain mistrust of emotions? A cruel battening down of the heart’s natural reactions?

Emotions—pain, pleasure, love, sorrow, hurt and joy, even anger, are what make human beings rise above the animal plane. They are the warp and weft of life. The tapestry that the heart weaves with a multitude of dark, myriad-hued and glimmering gold and silver threads to create unique patterns of each individual life.

With Mayurkhund I wanted to write about larger than life emotions. A young girl’s lifelong quest for a missing mother. A mother’s story of passion, betrayal and inevitable slide into alcoholism. Grand passions of a dissolute Maharjah. Unrelenting vengeance long in the planning. Generosity and forgiveness. A lifetime of an unspoken love. And what better place to locate them in than Rajasthan with its grand sweep of geography rife with  lore and myths that inspire the Rajputs to this day. The long repeated tales of love and valour that still echo in the folk songs and seem to hum in the desert air.

So I have a microcosm in Mayurkhund (Don’t look it up. No such place exists.). It could be any small thikana in the stark vastness of the Thar desert. It has its own mythology and mysteries, its own stories of erstwhile Maharajas and its own ghosts. Its palace, now fallen on stringent times, is still rife with old world loyalties, intrigue and plots and murder conspiracies. Its two Ranis live in an uneasy harmony and its heir apparent has not quite recovered from a coma following a polo fall. Into this closeted milieu comes back Amari who has her own ghosts to lay, her own answers to find and to come to terms with a first intense love that still has the power to topple the construct of her new life in Mumbai.

A larger than life tale with larger than life emotions that ripple across the pages. Mayurkhund has no message to hold out for the reader except that emotions are not something to be ashamed of and to seal away in steel-lined chambers of the heart as we get on with life. They are life itself…in all its fascinating dramatic facets. So go on. Make yourself the larger than life heroine or hero of your own life. Make life larger. Stir in the intensity. Intensify the pallid colours.

Mayurkhund spans two generations to tell the stories of a mother and daughter with sensitivity and an exploration into the psyche of both as they manage the challenging situations that life throws their way.

I think my uncle (the window pane smasher) now settled with his third wife in Toronto would love this book. So would you. Unfortunately, the widow who mourned her husband for sixteen years is now cavorting with him up in the heavens.

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