Tuesday, February 19, 2013

‘Goddess in Exile’

Goddess in Exile
Author: Sarojini Sahoo
Genre: Novel
Language: English
Price:225 INR
ISBN:  978-81-7273-727-6
E-35/103, Jawahar Park
Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-110 092
Email: Authorspress@yahoo.com

Dr. Sarojini Sahoo. A distinguished bilingual South Asian feminist writer, a columnist in National newspapers and  a renowned blogger, who has been enlisted among 25 Exceptional Women of India by Kindle English magazine of Kolkata and has been conferred with the Odisha Sahitya Academy Award. Her novel Goddess in Exile raises a number of pertinent questions; the issues discussed are really perplexing.  Is a woman an individual with her own will and freedom of choice? Is the ‘second sex’ destined to be used and exploited? Can she maintain a separate and independent existence without any social taboos, scandals and character assassination? Can she not sever her marital relationship in the wake of discord and disharmony? Can she unlock her heart freely? All such questions have varied answers depending on space and time and also attitudes and mindsets of people. Thinking minds and feeling hearts have dwelt upon them assiduously. However, Dr. Sahoo envisages a world order celebrating equality of both the sexes, despite the biological differences between the two which she considers quite natural and marginal. She boldly affirms that a woman is free to express her sexuality with no ambiguity and inhibition. There should be no gender bias, no discrimination, she advocates. For her, she is a beautiful creation of God with equal potentialities like her male counterpart, an integral part of the whole. Her sufferings and torture are unwarranted and unfortunate. She cannot ordinarily carve out a separate identity extricating herself from the soul-killing society. Can she make her life meaningful, and the world livable by embracing her will and choice?

(From Publisher’s note)

< Excerpts from  GODDESS IN EXILE> 

Harsha, the protagonist of the novel, married to a male chauvinist 
doctor who is thoroughly addicted to alcohol, to whom she deserts and 
comes back to her parents, determined never to go back. During her 
stay in Delhi, she develops an association with a visiting professor 
in Philosophy named Alberto whom she meets at the Car Festival in 
Puri. Alberto is a Portuguese and has immense respect and interest for 
Indian philosophy, her ancient history and heritage. But did they 

Below, a realization of Harsha, excerpted from my forthcoming novel 
Goddess in Exile. 

Now I have to return along the road 
that I have trodden for the last one year. 
Some familiar trees 
some houses known 
know not whether they are still there at the particular places? 
Walked along together for one year 
In order to get over the fatigue of walking 
I unlocked my grief stricken heart 
And you simply nodded like the fairytale Prince. 

Because you were there by my side 
I did not look at the yellow birds on the road 
Nor did I care to glance at the rainbow 
Nor did I look at the tiny mud-coated bodies of small children 
Nor did I see the sprouting or withering of flower petals 
But you simply nodded your head like the fairytale Prince. 
Never did you tell your sorrow 

What kind of journey is this? 
How long one can walk together 
With a traveller like you ? 
Your ego devoured you each time and takes you out, 
Every time you get depressed and take rebirth 
before you said something. 
Ego is the sandals of your feet 
the dress of your body 
the glasses of your eyes 
your wrist watch 
and the powder of your face. 

So many days we walked together 
I narrated my sorrow and you simply nodded 
You were so hard beneath a simple ‘yes’ 
Had I known earlier, I would have enjoyed 
the yellow birds on the boughs 
the rainbow in the sky, the muddied small children. 

After making an insurance of tremendous faith and hope 
when I knew 
that your pocket contains the plan of a future town. 
With the addresses of the motels and the brothels 
I know that your new town is ahead 
And you will be lost in the crowd, but you will carry 
With you my sorrowful story that I narrated during our walk together. 


Harsha and Alberto. Eventually, they are drawn to each other and tied 
in the bond of love. Harsha is glad for the revival of a new life, a 
fresh urge to live with the foreigner friend and lover. The woman for 
whom all the doors were apparently closed from all quarters finds the 
new found love reinvigorating and life-sustaining. She unhesitatingly 
accompanies Alberto to Rishikesh and they are lost in the amazing 
beauty and splendour of nature : 

When the dark clouds shrouded all around 
Give signals of downpour of torrential rain 
A gush of cold wind, 
With the drops of rain, drip, drop, drop; 
The dry earth gets wet 
The spiralling warm smell of the soil stirs the mind 
and maddens the heart 
Where would she hide herself? 
Where are the walls and the protecting roof? 
Where is that loving lap of promises? 
Leaving the deep dense forest 
Can she lie in mother’s lap protected? 
Should she hide herself? 
Can she avoid the smell pungent of the soil? 
The fall of incessant rains 
No, no fear for hailstorm nor lightning 
No mind to go back leaving the deep dense forest 
She could know as if a drop of rain 
Flowed down her undergarments secretly, 
moved towards the pair of tender flowers 
Without the notice of anybody and with the touches 
When eyes were closing in happiness 
the rain held her in close clasps. 
While enjoying the affection of rain 
All through the body she understood 
nothing is there in her control. 
Being exhausted she would know 
the down pour of rain on the body 
Her mortal coil submerged under water 
The rain all through her veins and arteries 
She had nothing to do 
And she could do nothing. 

(Note for readers: It is for Harsha a fulfilment and consummation. But 
Alberto claiming himself to be a Buddhist and believing in abstinence 
does not take this physical relationship normally.) 


Harsha was thrilled recapitulating the afternoon experience. She had bared out her body on Alberto’s bed exhausted after love-making. She didn’t know how all these things happened. Harsha had displayed her showcase of sorrows, which she had never done earlier before anybody. All the suppressed agonies were let loose from a closed cell after a long time. Have some tears rolled on along with the sorrows? Why did Alberto lift her up to his chest? The long standing stillness of their bodies suddenly broke and both of them unconsciously merged with each other.

She felt sleepy at the tender touch of Alberto. She began to melt down at a moment she knew not.

She stretched herself bare like the fodder to be eaten
Lord had leaned upon her with passionate hunger
A wild fire ran through all her veins
To be extinguished by the hope of the Lord
Showed He the ‘Biswarupa’ the mystery of creation
The original source of energy, all the worldly essences of science
The Lord bowed down with folded hands
Saw the apple in the garden of Eden, setting aside the creepers and bushes
Licked the first softness with the tongue of Basuki
To the last drop of the pot of nectar on the lips
Satan also changed at the moment
What was apparently a sin, I thought
Now turned into a merit (Punya).

Harsha lay on the bed contented like an enkindled soul. Alberto also lay supine on the bed. It was difficult to delve deep into the recesses of his mind. As though he had given everything and become penniless. Harsha was afraid to touch him. Both of them were speechless. Nothing to speak, neither a thing of joy nor sorrow.

As though she experienced it for the first time: an overflowing warmth in her body. Her life had attained a fulfilment at the very first union, uncanny though. Of course, Alberto lay beside her lifeless. Setting his legs aside slowly, Harsha got up from the bed. But Alberto continued in the same posture. She was eager to softly move her hand on Alberto’s body, and read his feelings. She wanted to know the feelings of Alberto. This unimpressive man also appeared to her as the most handsome; she called: ‘Alberto.’

Alberto got up and sat leaning against the cot. An indefinable void in his look. As if he had been internally torn to pieces and had been totally drained out of his energy. Somewhere was there an agony: it was clearly perceptible in his eyes. Harsha hesitated to speak anything. Alberto smiled but it did not naturally go with the depression writ large on his face.

Are you all right, Alberto? Are you not unhappy? She wanted to put a lot of such questions, but was afraid to do so. It is quite natural for a woman to be upset at such an incident. She had to brood over with a sense of guilt, her existence would have been shattered to pieces. Harsha would have felt as if she had lost everything, but it was other way round. Was Alberto unhappy because his abstinence was gone? Has this Buddhist been battered both in heart and soul by his sense of sin stemming out of his transgression? Is the man who firmly believed in abstinence unhappy for treading on the path of instinct? No, it was not the time to raise such questions. It is better to leave him alone: ‘Let me go, Alberto’, said Harsha. He uttered in a half awakened state: ‘Bye’. He did not come even to see her off. Harsha came out of the place with a tremendous sense of distress and pain.

Harsha felt as if a sage had broken down in grief for moral degradation. Whatever happened was not at all predestined but only an accident. A dormant desire as though had been waiting for a chance to be quenched. Both of them had entered an enchanting world, having been under the magical spell for a moment. Alberto had forgotten about ‘Nirvana’ (Salvation), Harsha also forgot her frigidity, her agony.


Alberto told Harsha,”I am not impotent, but I make love with parsimony.” 
He confessed: “: I was a small child at that time, four to five years 
old. A terrible incident happened with me. There was a man, half mad, 
near our house, crazy you may call him. He abducted me from the road 
and closed me in his house. He harassed me sexually for someday in his 
closed house. One day, taking advantage of his unmindfulness, I ran 
away from that place straight towards --------. I was seriously 
wounded by his torture. It took many days for the wound to be healed. 
Of course, I have par dined that man since long for his crime. But I 
cannot easily trust anybody. After that incident I always look with 
suspicion. I think, the same fear of childhood is still lying dormant 
me and it is frightening me timely or untimely.” 
Alberto suddenly raised a wonderful question. Your conjugal life was 
not at all happy. You were sexually tortured by that man during your 
stay with him. Have you now got a pleasant experience from life, by 
forgetting that painful past? Perhaps I am not able to put it 
correctly but I feel you are not unhappy as before. 

How can she explain Alberto? Every thing cannot be explained by argument. 

Someone went on giving blows with a crowbar 
The water lay hidden beneath the rock surface 
Completely drenched with sweat, the shivering body of the man 
Yet no spring of water gushed out 
The rock remains untouched/ unaffected 
Despite the severe blows again and again 
The nostrils swell with each blow 
Strong were the muscles 
The panting man in search of water 
Returned in vain again and again. 
The rock remained untouched and unperturbed for long 
Enjoined by the blows of the crowbar, terribly wounded 
Endured each blow silently, but 
Now what happened with the blow of the crowbar 
As if the rock shivered 
With some shiver, the body had a quiver, 
The first drop of rain 
The first sight of the sea 
The kiss of an adolescent cheek 
Or the imagination of the imminent death 
A titillation in the body 
With some invisible touch 
A thrill all over his body 
With terrible longings 
A cascade may fall at any moment 
Look here, look here 
The rock was undulating, tear me to pieces 
Release me from the bondage of the earth 
With the twinkle of an eye, the digging crow bar 
Itself melted into water 
It fell on to the rock surface 
The murmuring, gurgling round all around 
With the changing of ‘Purnamidam’ mantra 
In no time submerged under water 
The untouched unaffected rock. 


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