Two Deaths and Their Aftermath
Amla Gandhi
Niyogi Books by Priya Vasudevan Niyogi Books, 2011, 303 pp., 395
December 2011, volume 35, No 12

The novel Middle Time by Priya Vasudevan is a fascinating work of fiction with a dreamlike quality. The plot has two distinct stories set apart by time, place, history, prevalent customs and traditions. The parallel narration of two tales, one set in Hampi and the other in modern-day Chennai and the chronological timeframe-one of 1535 and the other of 1996 creates a superficial sense of difference. The difference is merely in framework, the spirit of the stories is essentially the same. Both the stories begin with the mysterious death/murder of two women bearing similar names- Thulasi (1535) and Tulsi (1996). The advancement of the suicide theory as the cause of their death and their children Manju and Shibani’s complete rejection of it gives a dramatic turn to the plot. The children, though, minors display a deep sense of intuitive knowledge, almost amounting to prophecy, about their respective mothers. Shibani’s (1996) words to Maya, the lawyer: ‘Aunty, Mummy was going to bake a cake.

How could this happen? She loved me,’ Manjunath’s (1535) anguished cry at his mother’s death: ‘My mother’s spirit has no peace. Her ashes flow in the river but her spirit is still unquiet’. Both Thulasi and Tulsi are comparable in their violation of the social code and the ensuing scandal by which they both remain unaffected. Their cup of life is brimful and so is their enjoyment.

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