Goodreads blurb: Army man found dead in Banjara Hills. Only witnesses – wife and servant. Unconfirmed reports of rape. Can the truth be revealed?
Nari is a chronicle of sexual abuse told from the points of view of the victim and the perpetrator.
It is set in present-day Hyderabad, when Ramya Tirthankar, the young wife of a retired army man, and their seventeen-year-old servant, Narayana – lovingly called ‘Nari’ – accuse each other of rape.
Layered and disturbingly lyrical, filled with shock, empathy and trauma, Nari uncovers questions related to human sexual behaviour, power play and how gender inequalities are built into our very genes.
It is inevitable that any of us who read newspapers or follow any other form of media have not been outraged at the various incidents of rape that has been reported in recent times, and it is also quite possible that some of us might have even our own reasonably strong opinions about measures to be taken to prevent them from happening in such large numbers. But I am more than sure that very few of us would have given enough serious thought as to why these incidents happened in the first place and as to what was going through the mind of the perpetrators and the victims of such rapes. And it is in this small category that the author Sharath Komarraju and his latest book, Nari: A Novel falls into.
The blurb and the core narrative of the book are quite clear and unambiguous as to what the book deals with; a rape and a murder, but it is the structure in which the narrative is presented and the voice in which it is told that makes this book stand out in the plethora of other commercial fiction titles available. The author interestingly chooses the first person narrative of ‘the victim’ as well as ‘the perpetrator’ of the rape to present the plot to the readers. For you to figure out why I have inserted the above characters in quotes, you will have to read the book.
A fairly detailed first half presents the view of Mrs Ramya Tirthankar and her narration of the events that led to the murder of her husband Captain (Retd) Tirthankar. And to me, this portion of the book is so nuanced, layered and subtly written that there’s just so much more to Ramya’s story than what is visible to the readers’ eye. And this is where Sharath succeeds wonderfully well in hooking the readers at the end of the first half where Ramya’s narrative ends and Narayana’s (Nari’s) takes over. And with this portion of the book, Sharath breaks the common myth that most urban dwellers have that incidents such as rapes, sexually deviant behavior and suchlike exist only in urban centers and are largely absent in the smaller towns and villages. The author not only breaks this common misconception but also probably goes on to suggest that such things are probably more common in the ‘other world’ that we know so little of; albeit in a different manner.
With neither of these characters or the supporting cast in the form of the victim Captain Tirthankar and others following the usual clichéd tropes, this book forms an interesting study into the minds of the parties involved with rape and other deviant sexual behavior. While most of the characteristics, motivations and reasons are things that we could probably easily guess, the fact that the author manages to successfully weave this into a fictional novel in the first person voice speaks volumes for his ability to easily and seamlessly step into the minds of the various characters in his book. And given that he has chosen an educated urban middle aged woman and a rural teenager as the main protagonists to give voices to, both of whom are quite far removed from his particular reality and world, speaks volumes for the sheer depth of imaginativeness he possesses.
Anybody who wants to read a well written book which provides an entirely different perspective to rape as a crime must surely add this to their reading list.