- Hardcover: 248 pages
- Publisher: Simon and Schuster India (22 January 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9386797364
- ISBN-13: 978-9386797360
- Package Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 1.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
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#9,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #252 in Indian Writing (Books)
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The Scent Of God Hardcover – 22 Jan 2019
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About the Author
Saikat Majumdar is the author of two novels: Silverfish, and the widely acclaimed The Firebird (published in the US as Play House), featured in The Telegraph’s Best Books of the year and a finalist for the Mumbai Film Festival Word-to-Screen Market and the Bangalore Literature Festival Fiction Prize. He has also published a book of nonfiction, College: Pathways of Possibility, and a book of literary criticism, Prose of the World. He lives in Delhi and teaches literature and creative writing at Ashoka University.
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The Scent of God by Saikat Majumdar is the story of Anirvan, who discovers the beauty of meditation and monastic life at an all-boys school. Anirvan, often called Yogi in his meditative state, is mesmerized by the sensual aspects of monastic life, the hymns, the smell of incense, the flowers, the colour saffron, and also the soothing touch of his classmate Kajol.
The book is about the attractions and tensions that life in a celibate order enforces. The book is unsettling in the questions it raises and made me uncomfortable with the reality of some scenes because as a nation we are only beginning to open up to different types of relationships. But the maturity and subtlety of Saikat’s writing is like the white bedcover I sought out. The writing is well-paced and enjoyable. It sucks you in as you enjoy the words and swallow the forbidden.
And the end, as smooth as its revelatory is an eye opener.
Read the book for all that it reveals about life in celibate, monastic orders.
While in the thick of it, it is often easy for a student to draw superficial binaries such as the lovers of monastic authority and the rebels, the good boy and the bad boy, the insulated monastery and the big bad world outside. It is often only through a retrospective glance that the blurred edges of these categories and their overlapping domains come into view. Correspondingly, the characters in the book walk in and out of these categories, sometimes emerging as bravehearts and sometimes as hypocrites.
As an unbiased account of real people in a real place, the text touches upon issues inextricable in the public mind from the Mission, such as homoeroticism, excessive austerity forced on students by the authority, and the Mission's efforts to keep its distance from the outside. The Mission's image in the eyes of various sections of society does not go unacknowledged. Darker areas such as manifestations of repressed desire, the omnipresent equations of class, race and language in modern India, and the urges to resistance as well as to submission are acknowledged and explored with due consideration.
Another very important function of this text is its contribution in the buildup of a Hindu mythological frame of reference in the English language. Simple yet smart allusions to the great epics, mythic tales, current rituals, songs and superstitions sketch different sides of the protagonist's mind and form the bedrock of his cultural consciousness. Indic words and lyrics are translated into apt terms which retain a surprising amount of their original connotations. This is of immense importance, as it takes the yet unfinished project of the Empire Writing Back. It is through efforts such as this that the assimilation of English by a non-English culture can be actualized.
The narrative is significant too, as it is nothing less than an invention of the author to suitably convey the insider's impression of the Mission life. Rich in contradictions yet weaving a strange harmony which nudges the believer and the doubter alike, the diction resembles the Mission itself in creating an experience of its own kind. The protagonist is composed of just the right amount of the introspective and the outgoing, which enables him to experience the core of the worlds on both sides of the wall.
The masterstroke, however, is the conclusion, as it stops where the protagonist's experiences come a full circle. If one considers the issue of authenticity on the author's part, it becomes evident that this is where he should have stopped. By staying authentic and concluding his work at the completion of the said circle, the author accomplishes an exhaustive study.
I have not read something as visceral, sensual and mystical in a a very long time- a must read!