In Short Reviews

‘The Unseeing Idol of Light’ review: Look out for the noose

One day Prakash put his wife on a train from Cochin to Calicut. He never saw her again. The disappearance of the pregnant young Deepti is at the heart of K.R. Meera’s new novel.

Prakash, his friend Shyam, and Deepti’s father spend 10 years searching in morgues and hospitals for their dimpled and curly-haired loved one. When Shyam and Deepti’s father find an emaciated, unresponsive woman in a hospital, they are sure she is Deepti.

Prakash, now blind, does not believe the destitute woman is Deepti. Strangely, he chooses this moment to stop searching for his wife and to settle down with his lover Rajani, who wants to marry him.

Shyam is furious and Deepti’s father insists on bringing the unknown woman in the hospital home, but slowly a cloud of doubt forms in their minds. Meanwhile, Rajani decides to break it off with Prakash and marry someone else. She also takes into her new husband’s family a blind boy she has been sponsoring at school and, just to add to the tension, she decides not to sleep with her husband.

Each character behaves capriciously, setting off reactions that bounce around as if on a billiards table. K.R. Meera writes in the language of violence, obsession, and rage. The writer is best known for her award-winning novel Hangwoman, and she lavishly wields the noose in this novel as well. Literature in Malayalam is usually thick with suicides, but The Unseeing Idol of Light contains a surprising, even exasperating, level of emotional and psychological self-destruction.

The blind but presumably not unseeing Prakash seems to exploit both Shyam and Rajani. He sports a philosopher’s beatific smile, but in his pursuit of women he exhibits more lust than love.

The disappearance of Deepti has an explanation a reader probably should have predicted. It is when Rajani too goes missing that we realise Meera was telling the story of not one woman but all women. The events that happen to them are plausible enough, but the bottomless angst of the characters themselves is overwrought and ultimately exhausting.

The writer is author of Three Seasons: Notes from a Country Year.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 11:58:40 AM |

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