Relationships As Navarasa
Sachidananda Murthy
MISTRESS by Anita Nair Penguin India, 2006, 426 pp., 350
January 2006, volume 30, No 1

Anita Nair’s new novel is a book on relationships, told in many voices, going back and forth in time, across continents. It is a book which deals with infatuations and obsessions across the gulfs of religion, marriage, legitimacy and conventions. Most of the affairs that develop come with a whiff of bad endings, like the river Nila which rarely has enough water and symbolizes the shallowness of the life of the main characters. Guilt courses through the book as a companion to the glory of love and beastliness of lust. What holds the book on premarital, marital, nonmarital and extra marital sex is the way the author binds it with Kathakali, the fabulous dance drama of Kerala. Not only is one of the principal protagonists a Kathakali artiste of international fame, but the different phases of the interplay of the characters is expressed through the navarasas — the nine phases of human emotions.

Continue reading this review