Book Review: Mohanaswamy
By Vasudhendra (Author), Rashmi Terdal (Translator)
Review by Sandeep Harchowdhury
Vasudhendra has penned the myriad hues of the lives of gay men in his book Mohanaswamy. He mentions in his interview to Rashmi Terdal that, “… writing was perhaps the result of my feeling of loneliness and insecurity.” Our protagonist Mohanaswamy is the quintessence of millions of gay men in India.
We find the boy Mohanaswamy praying to be turned straight so he could fit in with his classmates. He is desperately trying to learn how to cycle as an adult in the hope that it would “cure” him of his homosexuality. In each of the slices of his life we find him hurt, bruised, and sometimes broken but always coming out stronger and triumphant. Whether it is his search for identity in the word “gay” that he has read in “English dailies and magazines like Debonair”, or his inability to identify with gay men who push him away for being too effeminate, our hearts are always with our protagonist throughout the book.
There is a time when he believes that “the perceived defects in his own personality were the result of his father’s lust in old age,” and is relieved that it is indeed not so. He gets blown away by the tempests of lust coursing through his body and pays heavily for his indiscretions. We mourn to see his lovers spurn him when they no longer see any more benefits in being with him. We see him helplessly in love with a bisexual man who has no qualms about dropping him so he could get married, getting hurt by his one night stands, getting cheated and blackmailed by unscrupulous men.
On occasions Mohanaswamy would feel as if he was the ship which was “… floating in the middle of the sea (and) caught in massive waves” and that his cry “…was a cry in the wilderness. It was more helpless than the cry of the sea.” On an occasion, overcome by his troubles our protagonist “(r)eeling under crippling feelings of loneliness and depression, … (decides) … to end his life by drowning in the sea.” What happens next? Well, I would hate to play the spoiler here!
The translation by Rashmi Terdal makes the book an easy read with a lot of depth. She is able to convey the quaint customs and the sights, smells and sounds of the real India to the reader.