As a domiciled Kannadiga, I have been flirting with translated editions of Kannada literature from time to time- nothing heavy. Not the likes of Kambar and Kuvempu, but contemporary writers like Sudha Murthy and U.R. Ananthamurthy. Both have similar writing styles, in my opinion. And they both come from central Karnataka region, and not the much filmed Mysore Karnataka area. I fell in love with ‘Mahaswehtha’ by Sudha Murthy.
Mahashwetha is the story of a young, but poor girl named Anupama who studies Sanskrit in a college and is deeply involved in drama- especially classics like Kadambari by Bhana Bhatta. Anupama has been described as breathtakingly beautiful by the author.Dr. Anand sees a performance and falls in love with her. Dr. Anand insists on getting married to her though he’s from a well to do background and is planning to go to England for higher studies. In spite of the resistance from his mother and other family members, they do get married, much to the relief of Anupama’s step mother. The book vividly describes the conservative mindset of the Indian family in spite of its wealth and societal status. Within a couple of months of marriage, Anand leaves for England. Soon after, she develops leukoderma- she becomes ‘Mahashwetha’, or super white. The book brilliantly describes how she struggles to hide this for fear of being ostracised. She is abandoned by her in laws family and later by her own family.
Anupama moves to Mumbai with her friend, whose husband finds her a job and from there the story brilliantly describes how she finds herself, grows in confidence and becomes one of the best known drama directors among the Kannada Samaj in Mumbai. Though she was isolated by her family she believed that she is like a tree- A tree blooms several flowers, some of which become fruits which get pecked by insects and birds. The tree itself does not enjoy what it bears. Still can one say that the tree’s life is wasted? Though I read a translated version in Malayalam, this and such conversations have been captured without loss of its essence. That in itself is a commendable job.
It does not matter in which age this book is set. I was surprised that it was first published in 2007. The same mindsets that belonged to the last century still remain in our society. But the never say die, single minded focus on your goals is what makes a human being. This is in stark contrast to one of our national shames- Bride slavery.
You can pick up an English copy of ‘Mahashwetha’ at Flipkart.