By Radasha Ramdeo
I don’t know if it’s a feeling I love or hate… that feeling of emptiness that comes with the end of a fastidiously penned, sweeping story.
I miss the words, the metaphors and similes, the ‘other world’ a story creates, the characters that I became so attached to, the ‘braingasms’ from the opulent use of simple old words…
I say ‘opulent’ because nothing has quite the same power over human emotion as well-strung words. I say ‘opulent’ because sometimes we get to experience a book where we become more than just a reader. In the case of Aman Singh Maharaj’s debut novel, ‘A Dalliance with Destiny’ transforms the Reader into the Observer in a most profound way.
I began my own ‘dalliance with destiny’, reliving the history of my own ancestors, feeling their blood pump through my veins for the very first time, my DNA coming alive with memory. For all of the history I’ve read and documentaries I’ve watched, nothing quite connected me to my bloodline as the picture painted in my head by the author. The history, the knowledge and understanding are most sincere and heartfelt.
Although the novel can’t be classified into a single genre as such, one can’t help but become enveloped in the spiritual aspect of the story. Alternating between life’s many undulating facets, the reader is left with a deeper understanding of the Indian culture, a greater appreciation for history, and an exceptionally deep peek into the human psyche.
Themes such as love, loss, friendship, religion, history, philosophy, coming-of-age maturity and even more intangible elements of the human experience are explored by the story’s protagonist, Milan Gansham.
Milan, a 32-year-old South African male of Indian descent, finds himself at a major crossroads in his life after a series of distressing experiences, which prompt him to begin his journey of self-discovery, leading him to his ancestral roots,deep in rural northern India.
Milan is an extremely straightforward, punch-to-the-gut, somewhat misogynistic man, who the author rather bravely releases into the public realm in a world where such character traits are frowned upon. It sets the tone of a post-apartheid South African Indian whose fathers and grandfathers fought the good fight to bring an end to the apartheid regime, yet ended up with ‘the short end of the stick’. However, at the heart of his questionable character lies a true romantic with almost delusional expectations of ‘the woman of his dreams’.
In a time of technology and hook-ups, which he heartily partakes in as described in some very raunchy scenes, he still holds on to his idea of the ideal partner and won’t settle for less. This brute stubbornness of Milan was irritating to me as a female yet charming in an ‘old school’ way at the same time.
Milan’s character develops quite fantastically from a chauvinistic, oh-woe-is-me guy to a man who is overcome with love and appreciation for his Motherland and his beloved. It is almost as if the author deliberately ‘toyed’ with the reader, making us ambivalent as whether to despise the protagonist or pity him.
I took my time, not devouring but rather savouring every word of this exceptionally prosaically-written novel. I often paused to ponder each character, the vivid imagery as I journeyed along the great Ganges River, or the beautiful valleys of Kashmir. I took a hiatus from reading just to bask in the glory of beautiful writing and genuine wisdom that spilled from each page. Every thought in this book was so personal yet universal, which leaves me feeling my own sense of self-awareness in a much more bereft manner.
‘A Dalliance with Destiny’ was indeed, a dalliance for me. One that will stay with me in the way that a great story always does and I hope every South African, not just of Indian descent, and every avid reader globally, experiences the sanguinity that I felt as I paged through this very intense novel. I might add, perhaps somewhat tempestuously, that, as an educated female, rather than being aghast by the obvious chauvinism that is so overt in the passages of the book, it left me breathless with anticipation and almost regretful that I dared even feel any feminist ire in the early stages of the book. Whatever polemic prose there is, and there’s plenty of that, it is superseded by the sheer lyricism of the craft.
‘A Dalliance with Destiny’ is available for purchase on Amazon, in Kindle and Paperback formats.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 9 December 2022
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