To Love

  • Alka Gurha
  • India
  • Feb 17, 2012

Apart from being a writer and a publisher, Namita Gokhale is also the co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival. She is the author of several acclaimed novels - like ‘Paro - Dreams of Passion’, ‘Priya: In Incredible Indyaa’, ‘Gods, Graves and Grandmother’, ‘A Himalayan Love Story’ and ‘Shakuntala: The Play of Memory’. Her works of non-fiction include ‘Mountain Echoes’, and ‘The Book of Shiva’.

Having read Paro, a cult novel, I did not hesitate to pick ‘The Habit of Love’, her new collection of short stories. The tales revolve around the inner lives of women from varied time zones. The assortment of stories is mostly introspective, piecing together the mysteries and enigmas of different women. Namita says, “The stories speak of a woman’s need to love, rather than the objects of love. Women love passionately, deeply – often angrily.” These stories have been written over a long period of time. According to Namita the first story, ‘Omens Sacred and Profane’, was penned over twenty years ago.

This collection gets its title (‘The Habit of Love’), from a story of a widowed mother of two daughters, whose anguish stands like a lonely Himalayan peak in the ring of icy heights surrounding Kathmandu. Vatsala Vidyarthi, a forlorn lady who works in an advertising agency, is the literary protagonist in ‘Omens 1’. Vatsala suspects she has been robbed, during her one-night stand, while on an official junket to Rishikesh. She returns, determined to bury the hurtful incident. In the engrossing and inscrutable ‘Hamsdhwani’, a golden-winged swan becomes the storyteller of the tale of lovers, Nala and Damayanti. “I wanted to work on a piece about Nala and Damayanti for many years. The myth touched something in me ever since I had worked on the Mahabharata – and encountered the tale hidden in the folds of the epic,” says Gokhale. 

These stories are especially endearing for women readers, as they explore complex emotions of love – bordering on anxiety and vulnerability. I am not sure if young men would appreciate the rather philosophical voices and story settings.

The prose in this book is as searing as it is searching.

The book is eminently suited for the literary reader who wishes to peel the surface, appreciate the sophisticated prose, and embark on a perceptive journey – where the demons are often of our own making.


Author: Namita Gokhale

PRICE: Rs. 250

Genre: Fiction


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