It’s hard to see why Koral Dasgupta wouldn’t employ her literary grace yet again, to convey Kunti’s story. As she continues with the Sati series, she is gaining ground in the magnificence of her diction, in the use of artistic liberty to chisel out uncanny strands of beauty derived from the feminine foundation. Over the top, remains her able use of metaphorical splendour, how she effortlessly makes the natural elements dance to the tunes of the story, and how she rhythmizes illusion, desire and longing.
Under the aegis Koral builds with each of her Satis, I found myself more vividly as I read ‘Kunti’. I can now get a glimpse of what might have been her motivation to write of such women pioneers, and how she chooses to speak of them, deploying their agencies to suit her metaphorical weavings. With ‘Kunti’, she adds momentum to the flare she had initiated with ‘Ahalya’. But ‘Ahalya’, remains to be my favourite of the two. That book is pure wonder, everything about it. I hadn’t discovered nature and the feminine intermingle so articulately and beautifully as I’d experienced there, and so it remains to be unparallel (You can read my review of Ahalya here)
With ‘Kunti’ however, Koral had a mountain to displace. She had to carve out aspects of Kunti from the Mahabharat and beyond, that will stay true to what she, as an author wanted to convey. Maybe that is why we primarily encounter the Panch Kanyas in their early years of bloom and maturity, where their governing attributes would be unhindered to the core. In Koral’s Kunti, the massive matriarch of the epic greets us in her tender years, and how she sails through her adolescence, her unforeseen marriage and queenship and then childbirth. The book culminates with the birth of the Pandavas, and I wish there was more.
Koral Dasgupta, as always, crafts a sensuality between mortals and the divine devas, and how they interact and mingle. Through her words, the heaven comes to the earth. From the tiny swaying bees to the grand downpours of the monsoon and the jasmine-laden wet soil of the forest, she instills this sense of quiver and ecstasy, only to be equated with something far more divine. She places Kunti atop this divinity, and crafts her to be a woman whose empathy and intellectual detachment surpasses all. When the Panch Kanyas are made alive through this Sati series, Koral derives their persona from the various layers of the feminine foundation. She wants to convey all and every aspect of womanhood and femininity, and with each character she writes about, she advances into this feat more and more.
The interplay of desire, lust and actual unconditional love plays through ‘Kunti’ almost as a conflict as we glimpse through Kunti’s masculine interests. Her enormous love and longing for the king of the devas, Indra is not only ambitious, but also very infiltrative to her other fancies. Indra, in the way much signature to Koral’s style, ceases to be a god or anything of the metaphysical stature. He is the perfect embodiment of illusory sentiments, of limitless indulgences and boundless desire—he is the governor of the indriyas, he is duly an amalgamation of masculinity in all sorts, squinted upon or applauded. Indra’s philosophy is as fresh as the newly bloomed, dew-soaked first flower of the Spring…he is here, there and everywhere around. Indra, in this sort of a vivid entity of colour and sheen, is philosophically new.
Surya and Indra—two devas of antonym implications, who stand on the opposite ends in almost every strand of philosophical, physical or imaginative line of thought, have a way into Kunti. She, with her expertise of the arts, with her dazzling academic brilliance and the hunger for knowing the truth, submits to Surya. But yet, with her desirous indulgences and her chase of illusory fractals, she wishes be one and all with Indra. Surya and Indra in a cyclic conflict, through the overcast skies bearing rainfall and the clear rays of sunshine dissipating it…come again and again, through Sugreeva and Bali; and now through Karna and Arjun.
‘Kunti’ presents to us glimpses of the Mahabharat from a window of understanding and weighing of character. Kunti’s encounters with the inhabitants of Hastinapur is laden with metaphors and technical analysis. Buoyed by acts of political correctness, diplomacy and preservation of lineage—Kunti’s interaction with her marital home is fragmented and unfinished. Koral Dasgupta sometimes becomes playful in the way she juggles the timelines in Kunti’s life. She cradles the story from side to side, equipping the pages with rich flashbacks and dreamy visions, heralding the revelation of the past or the commencement of a menacing future. Although Koral chooses a narrow timeframe to structure her Kunti, she makes us bear witness to the presence of other looming figures who will dominate the storyline very soon. Like a frisky deer jumping here and there, often venturing into restricted territories, Kunti’s mind echoes around to shake free of present bondages.
Kunti’s womanhood is portrayed through an interesting recipe of maidenhood, intellectualism, detachment, grace and impulse. Much like multiple personalities fighting their way to the top, Kunti’s image is as unpredictable as a drizzle of light rain, which is to say it is not. With this chasm of feminine grace, she walks and conquers situations, seldom falling into hopeless recluse or overwhelming triumph. The only sizzling force that cracks through this demeanour is her love for the king of the devas. This amalgamation is thrilling. Like the perfect balance between mirth and composure, between slow-glowing embers and lashing flames, Kunti harbours this stature. Amidst a sense of maidenhood and singleton adequacy, Kunti’s motherhood however, goes amiss. Her maternal sentiments often come to be chopped off, stripped of their innocent affection. Innocence isn’t the queen here. In this book, more universal and gigantic faculties come to play and interact through the changing waves of time. ‘Kunti’ could have had more pages, more chapters and more meanderings. It could have been as perennial and unstoppable in chronology as the cyclic seasons are, but we get to see only a slice. It makes the readers thirsty for more.
Thanks Pan Macmillan India for the book ! The book releases on 7th July 2021.