Author Makarand R. Paranjape's latest book raises age-old questions on love and relationships

The L word. Loaded with veiled promises, hidden facets and layered explanations. Synonymous with so many things—need, belonging, passion, sex, conflict, choices, shared dreams, splintered memories.

To skirt around it, delve into its core and extract its essence is no easy task; love like human relationships is fragile, amorphous, convoluted.

Yet it appears to hold an endless fascination for author Makarand R. Paranjape and his latest novel, Body Offering ( Rs 395, Rupa Publications) is a detailed examination of love and complex relationships.

Set in Delhi, it tells of the liaison between Ashok, a middle-aged surgeon and Sunayana, a young, vivacious editor at a leading publishing house. Infused with raw need, complex desires and intense emotion the book raises that age-old questions: What draws two people together?

“It is a puzzle, a mystery that one will never completely understand,” says Makarand, who was in town a book-reading session at the Oxford Book Store. “You cannot reduce it to practical matters; it is simply a leap of faith, a spark that happens between people,” he says.

An inexplicable, impractical spark perhaps but one that binds vastly different people together—at least for a bit.

“Well that is symptomatic of a changed social reality of which we are all a part of. This will lead to a great deal of flexibility in human relationships.

But love is not a matter of right, it doesn’t have to mean forever. It comes unasked and one has to be grateful for it.”

Born in 1960 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Makarand is an alumnus of several prestigious institutions including the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, Bangalore, St. Stephen's College Delhi and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

He has taught undergraduate and postgraduate students both in the States and in India for over 30 years and is currently a professor of English at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

He has published over 120 academic papers, has written a novel, several poems, short stories, essays and book reviews and is a columnist for various renowned publications. “I love what I do,” he smiles “An ideal life would be one where I read, wrote, taught and walked,” he says.

Passion and human bonding have always been an intrinsic part of the poetry he loves. “It you read my poems you will discover that it has this erotic tinge. Passion is a trigger to transformation.”

Yet he refuses to classify Body Offering as erotica. “That’s more of a recent marketing gimmick. It certainly has passion but it is not raunchy; it is not sex for the sake of sex.

It is more in the tradition of DH Lawrence, in fact it has an epigraph from Lawrence,” he says adding that he had read Lawrence carefully before starting this novel.

“His books explore human relationships, social change and class conflict.

They moved me greatly and helped me reinvent myself as a writer,” he says.