Saturday, August 4, 2018

Brahmahatya

Several months ago, I learned about the novel  Brahmahatya by Rajiv Mittal, published in 2017, on Tracy's wonderful book blog, Pen and Paper.  Her post quickly led to my interest in reading this book, and a result, the author sent me a copy of his book.  In March, I featured a guest post about writing by author Rajiv Mittal.  It took me longer than anticipated to read this story, but I finished it recently. Without further adieu, here are some of my thoughts about this book, Brahmahtya, which the author calls a shraddhanajali (homage) to his father.




"As soon as he stepped outside of the hospital confines, his senses were assaulted from all directions: the sights, sounds, smells and feel of India."
~ Brahmahtya, Rajiv Mittal 

Set mainly in India, Brahmahtya is a story about Ravi Narasimhan, a forty-year-old bachelor who lives and works in Dubai. He cares deeply about his elderly father, Srinivasan Narasimhan, and calls him twice a week to check up on him. Even though their conversations are kept short by his father, Ravi knows that his father looks forward to these regular calls.  One day, Ravi receives a call from India and learns that his father has fallen.  Ravi flies to India to visit his father in the hospital. It looks as if his father will soon recover, so Ravi arranges for attendants to help his father after he leaves the hospital, and returns to Dubai.  However, Ravi receives a call from India on his first day back to the office. His father has had a stroke.

Ravi returns to India and tries desperately to get his father admitted to Govindarajan Memorial Residency, or GMR, because it was recommended to him by Dr. Hariharan at the hospital as a place that provides elderly people with dignity and care, and also because it's near to a hospital if residents need any sort of medical treatment.  Ravi meets with Bhavna Ramesh, Operations-In-Charge, who is competent and attractive. She realizes that Ravi's father, who everyone calls Naru Sir, had been her schoolteacher, and she's eager to see him again. Bhavna tells Ravi that Dr. Krishnamachari Iyengar, a Brahmin doctor at GMR called Dr. Chari, does not possess the qualities of a Brahmin, but that he's rigid and lacks compassion.  Bhavna tries to help Ravi by providing instructions about how his father should arrive at GMR.  Unfortunately, things do not go well in that regard, and Dr. Chari refuses to admit Naru Sir to GMR, though Ravi pleads with him to do so.  So Naru Sir is instead placed in a depressing old age home called Blessings, which Ravi hopes will be a temporary measure.  Sadly, Naru Sir dies.  When Ravi eventually goes back to his office in Dubai, he's surprised to see a letter of acceptance from GMR for his late father.  I will not reveal much more about the plot because I want to avoid spoilers. 

I'm still thinking about this book, and expect to remember it for  a long time (although I will likely reread it, soon).  It's a skillfully written story about the relationship between Ravi and his father, which makes you think about how we should care for the elderly.  Due to health issues, my own father spent the last few years of his life at a home for the aged on the east coast. Brahmahatya is an intensely emotional story in which characters experience and express a variety of emotions: guilt, grief, hate, peace, hope, and love.  The details in the story are rich, and present many of the unique smells (sandalwood), sounds (tinkling of a prayer bell) and tastes (South-Indian filter coffee) of India.  (Some are much less pleasant.) The  characters, Ravi, Naru Sir, Bhavna, Laxmi, Dr. Chari, Sridhar, and others, are brought to life by the author's vivid word portraits.  As a reader I was especially sympathetic toward Ravi and Bhavna, the main characters.  I was invested in the story and wanted to know how things would turn out for the characters I cared most about (will there be a sequel?). Bhavna raises her twelve-year-old daughter, Laxmi, who has cerebral palsy, by herself, as her husband could not bear having a disabled, "imperfect" child. 

Brahmahtya is touching and heartbreaking at times.  The book includes ancient Hindu scriptures and stories in the story, as characters grapple with various challenges.  Like Tracy from Pen and Paper, I'm also not familiar with these scriptures, but they add an authentic and religious or spiritual  dimension to the story; I don't think my lack of familiarity detracted too much from my understanding of the story.  Brahmahtya held my attention at all times, and I relished reading it.  Many thanks to Rajiv Mittal for sending me a complimentary copy of this touching and memorable novel.

Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcomed.

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