By Philip Li Ching Hum
Shakuntala Hawoldar launched her 18th book titled The Big Lie at Frank Richard Hall, MIE, Reduit recently amidst a crowd of well-wishers, friends and her ex-pupils. The title of the book is provocative and thought-inspiring. It covers a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from philosophy to politics. She provides us with varied lenses to look at life from different perspectives. The Big Lie encompasses perceptions and concepts we utilize throughout our lives. It dissects the root-cause of human suffering.
The author delves deeply into man’s ego which prompts him to see himself only as a separate, individual entity, thus repudiating the cosmic unity that ties all human beings into one. Modern man must unshackle the big lie and search truth within himself to find his bliss. It is an odyssey for his soul-searching pursuit. She dwells lengthily on Indian philosophy citing Mahabharata, the Vedas, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda. She devotes one chapter on sexuality because, as she writes, ‘many people misunderstand the role of sex in their lives’.
Throughout The Big Lie, Shakuntala eulogizes the great souls and world teachers who have shaped her destiny to set her on the right path in search of ultimate truth. It is a journey to the inner sanctuary of liberating truth. There is no place for vengeance, fanaticism, dogma, arrogance and violence. Money, power, possessions are the modern gods but they are all ephemeral. Humanity is on the brink of collapse. Apocalypse is looming ahead. People in general are losing their anchors. Family ties are weakening and we are living in an age of lies, greed and materialism. Material progress has been so fast that spirituality has not kept pace with materialism. We are now hell-bent on a perilous downhill journey. A new paradigm has to be set in order to live harmoniously on this planet and, as the author writes, we must grow up spiritually so that we can live a judicious sustainable life on earth.
Shakuntala reads widely. She dips her pen into the reservoir of literature citing from Shakespeare to Tolstoy, Premchand to Rabindranath Tagore. She has a literary skill rarely found in other writers. She surprisingly transports us into the realm of film-making from Pakeeza to Dr Zhivago. She writes on Rajesh Khanna, Meena Kumari and Dilip Kumar. She refers to Cecile B de Mille. She further stuns us with her citations on Marxism, Frantz Fanon and Fukuyama and Samuel Hungtington. Nothing escapes her eyes. The book is pregnant with references and citations.
Shakuntala becomes pathetic when she offers us autobiographical glimpses of slices of her life. This is the poignant story of a frail-looking lady who sacrificed all the comforts and coziness of Bombay life to follow a man whom she loved so dearly, to come to such a speck of an island almost imperceptible on world map.
Once she wrote: “You ask me why I weep my friend, I weep for the love that is dead. And I weep for the love that cannot be born… There is a slow dying of the love that is born. And the silence of the love that is gone.” These are very powerful words which will move many to tears. She speaks the truth bluntly drawing upon the experiences of the “roller-coaster ride” that her own life has been. But Shakuntala is made of sterner mettle and destiny has endowed her with such talent and literary skill to overcome the vicissitudes of life as to outshine in the firmament of Mauritian literature. The Big Lie is a must-read book. I am sure many readers will relish while poring over it.
* Published in print edition on 17 May 2019