I am not sitting in judgement of the main characters: Kavita Kane

From the mind that brought us Sita’s Sister, Menaka’s Choice, Lanka’s Princess, The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty and the bestselling Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen comes the latest book – Ahalya’s Awakening.

Chatty and approachable, author Kavita Kane, who was recently in the city for the launch of the book, sat down for a chat at The Waverly in Whitefield.

In the most well-known version of Ahalya’s story, Ahalya who has been created as the most beautiful of all women by Brahma, is married to the much older Gautama. Indra, the king of gods, takes on the guise of her husband, and she ends up sleeping with him. When Gautama finds out he curses both of them, turning Ahalya to stone until she is saved by Rama’s foot brushing against her. However, the paradox is that though she is held up as an example of an adultress, she is also extolled as the first of the panchkanya archetypes of female chastity.

In Ahalya’s Awakening, Kavita has given her a backstory introducing the reader to her as a baby and then following her life as she grows up wanting to study instead of getting married, falling in love and processing the final incident. The book also fleshes out the characters of Gautama and Indra.


What drew you to telling Ahalya’s story?

The book deals with relationships and the relationship between husband and wife, and of course, the aspect of infidelity and the related story. It’s also about our role in passing judgement as a society; how, especially as women, we are so easily condemned by other people.

It’s such a tiny episode but it somehow has a huge impact. If you see the entire incident, it is a sort of precursor to what happens to Sita years later. Rama, who is supposed to liberate Ahalya, is the same person Sita confronts for her agnipariksha. So, in that way, Ahalya is very intriguing.

Secondly, in the other tellings of her story, she doesn’t talk at all; she is like a mute spectator to her own tragedy. And there are so many versions of this story; it’s amazing how her character has morphed from a devoted wife to an adulterous wife. But again, we revere her as one of the panchakanya. That is the paradox.

But on the question of did she say yes to Indra or it was seduction by subterfuge, the answer lies in her hand. It is her reaction which is more important. She took the decision, whatever it was, and then accepted it.

In the book, Gautama and Ahalya have a conversation about infidelity during which he expresses a progressive point of view. However, that quickly changes.

I have tried to see Gautama’s point of view also. Despite his scholarly bent of mind, when he sees Ahalya with some other man, he feels angry and betrayed.

I’m not sitting in judgement of the three characters. Here it’s it is a question of the situation and the experiences and the emotions and consequences. I was more interested in the interplay of how these three characters progress rather than ‘ok, this has a moral.’ No, the story really doesn’t have a moral. It’s just that we have decided to be moralistic about it.

Also, you have fleshed out a reason for what leads to the main incident.

Yes, I tried to contemporise it. In a marriage, the woman needs some sort of contentment. It’s not only about sexual fulfillment. So when I am talking about Ahalya’s awakening, it’s not only about her sexual awakening; it’s also about her spiritual and intellectual awakening.

Do you intend to explore other genres as well or do you prefer mythology?

Let us see how I evolve first! But I like mythology because it gives me a huge canvas and a certain creative freedom. It’s like a literary device; it becomes a metaphor, it becomes an allusion. Mythology is about how you interpret the truth. You cannot get to the truth without rereading it and more importantly, peeling [away] the layers. As a genre, it’s demanding because it makes the readers think and not judge.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 5:23:35 PM |

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