Neelima Vinod is a poet whose work I have enjoyed reading online at Neel The Muse for a while, so I was intrigued to read her novella when learning that she had been published, wondering how a poet might fill the page when the words and sentences were required to touch both margins of the page continuously. Curious too, as it delves into the supernatural within the context of the story telling heritage of southern India, not quite the same as that contemporary foray into what is we refer to as the paranormal.
Being a novella, it is a relatively quick read and starts out as a love story, or its anti-thesis as it is clear that the relationship between the couple is being threatened by perceived jealousy. To heal their relationship Divya and Raghav seek out the services of Dr Ray, a yogi.
The Doctor sends them on a quest, to retrieve the ancient Scrolls of Love from an old abandoned house about which many stories have been told and which no one wishes to enter, in fear of what it is said to be possessed by. The Doctor’s motives do not appear to be entirely altruistic, a twist in the story that was almost too subtle and had me rereading passages to observe him more closely than I did the first time through.
“It is in the one hundred-roomed mansion at Cherakad that the Scrolls of Love were buried during the terrible floods. It nearly wiped the village off the map centuries ago. No one has confirmed it though.
Archaeologists I have talked to have told me that the house lies abandoned. Any one in possession of the Scrolls would understand love’s true secret-folklore at its best.”
Parallel to the contemporary love story, we read a tale of the Royal Court poet Shankara, banished from the kingdom of Cherakad five centuries ago after falling out of favour with one of the King’s concubines Meenakshi. Shankara roams the land in confusion and without purpose until he encounters a woman in white, Thathri, the same woman Divya has been dreaming of, whose story she had been told by her Grandmother when she was a child.
As the book progresses, connections between the tales arise as the mystery unravels, the past and the present become entwined as the couple attempt to conquer their quest and resurrect their struggling relationship.
Well written, it’s an enjoyable read and one that requires careful attention in order to make the connections clear. I am sure there are things I was not aware of, I even wondered if Shankara was based on a real poet and whether this fable had connection to stories already told and passed down through families and villages. Sadly, it is a dying art, the gift of oral story telling, threatened more than ever by the technology of today’s modern world.
Its title might suggest romance, but the dark and foreboding cover and spectre like presence within suggest it may be more of an alternative ghost story. Unsettling indeed.
Thank you Neelima for sending me a copy of your e-book.
If you are interested in reading it, you can find a copy at the Indireads Book Store.