‘The movement of the boy’s tiny fist made the flame leave a scar in air. Homi felt her heart being sliced open the same way, by an invisible knife. No, the tears that flowed were not because she was alone, so completely alone, but because she was seeking not love, wisdom, or fulfilment – she sought to be exiled from the future, to be exiled from events. She wanted confinement, final and permanent, complete incarceration. Otherwise her loneliness would prove discordant and unsuccessful.’
The Yogini by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay. Translated by Arunava Sinha
I despised Homi, the protagonist, from the second page. Cruel, insensitive and puerile, her interactions with those who loved her angered me. As I read on, dislike evolved into pity and a desire to understand how such a young woman could be so lost and, somehow, trapped. As her story progresses and she stops running from herself, her character becomes much more affable and interesting.
I felt the language around sex sets out to shock. Perhaps it’s a question of culture, but I don’t feel the idea of women wanting and initiating consensual sex to be taboo. These passages, or rather the crudity of language used, disrupt the harmony of the writer’s prose, which is frustrating as a reader.
In some ways, The Yogini is reminiscent of Kang’s The Vegetarian as we are invited to observe the relationship between a woman’s psychological state, sex and the eternal world. Both dabble in surrealism and themes of female independence. Here, the ending was so shocking! I had no inclination or expectation, and found myself mouthing ‘what?’ as I read the final passages. Not my usual type of book, but change is good (at times).