Much like the great James Baldwin, the acclaimed Kannada writer Vasudhendra turned his personal experiences of prejudice, shame, and tragedy into something harrowing and yet magnificently truth-telling.
Mohanaswamy lost his longtime partner Karthik to a woman. Mohanaswamy dreams of living a simple and dignified life while questioning himself, the choices he has made, the friends and lovers he has made and lost. A life where you can forget the humiliations and fears of your youth, the insults you still carry and the despair that made you long to let go and forget.
Coming out of Vasudhendra’s own closet, these tales of homoerotic love and homosexual life have shook Kannada readers from notions of literature and palate. It explores socialization, class, unsettles and impresses English readers, and serves as a good introduction to one of the most powerful voices in Kannada literature. However, the queer literary scene does not connect much with the non-English speaking part of the community. While queer literature in English has grown quite substantially in recent years within and outside the country, Indian languages have seen far fewer books on the theme of homosexuality.
The opening story, “Gordian Knot,” portrays the unequal relationship between Mohanaswamy and his partner, Karthik, in slightly over-emotional tones. He learns to ride a bicycle with the hope that he will become interested in women, and eventually, in one poignant moment, he realizes that even if he learns how to fly an airplane, he will still want to sleep with a man. Stories such as “Kashiveera,” “Anagha,” and “Bed Bug” expose the overt and subtle atrocities of a bigoted society.
In the final two stories, “Four Faces” and “Kilimanjaro,” the hero finally feels comfortable in his own skin. Perhaps the most nuanced story in the collection, “Four Faces” depicts four gay men from different castes, classes and geographic locations who find themselves in different ways.The Last Story In ‘Kirimonjaro’ Mohanaswamy views the world with a certain equanimity, believing that there are no easy solutions or escapes from loneliness. “Standing a short distance away, the fire in Kilimanjaro’s belly slowly flared up.” The massive mountain reflects Mohanaswamy’s own state of mind. Ironically, the Kannada book was released on December 11, 2013, the day Supreme Court upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality.
About the author: Vasudhendrawas born at Sandur in Ballari district, Karnataka. After working as a software professional for more than twenty years, Vasudhendra now runs his own publication house, Chanda Pustaka, which publishes and encourages new writing in Kannada and has instituted the Chanda Pustaka Award which recognizes young short story writers. He is also associated with local support groups for LGBT individuals. The author of thirteen books in Kannada, that have sold over 80,000 copies, Vasudhendra has won many literary awards, including the Kannada Sahitya Academy Book Prize, the Da Raa Bendre Story Award and the Dr U.R. Ananthamurthy Award.