Wings in the Void


Tantra Bhoomi


Translated from Tamil by

Janaki  Venkataraman



“A beautiful and ineffectual angel beating his luminous wings against the void in vain”

—Mathew Arnold on PB Shelley


It is not clear what Mathew Arnold  meant  when he made the above observation about the  younger romantic, P.B.Shelley,  but  the quotation  finding its place  at the beginning  of the novel  certainly serves as  a prelude to  Wings in the void”    originally written  in Tamil  by Indira Parthasarathy  and translated  into  English   by janaki Venkataraman.

There isn’t much of a story  to speak of, as it deals more  with the unfolding of the character of Kasturi, the protagonist who moves out  from  Kumbakonam, a small town  in Tamilnadu   to  Delhi  of the 1960s    for  seeking   fresh pastures.    His interaction with  people in his office as well as  his exposure to Delhi society  instead of  contributing to his growth  only leads     him  to confusion  and  degradation, a morass  he  finds  difficult to escape from.  His  association  and relationship with, Meena  Parande, who works in his office  takes  a different  turn  as it progresses  and  leaves him directionless as well as  with   a punctured ego but  he knows  that it is of his own making.  However, he is more assertive in his dealings at the official level refusing to compromise on his principles and   doesn’t think twice before quitting his job or   forgoing the perks.

 Kasturi  doesn’t hibernate  for long because  he lands   with  a  government  job as an Advisor   obtained through  Asha, ( the wife of  Surjit  Singh, a man with high connections)   a woman of questionable character. Kasturi is thoroughly   disillusioned with    its   work culture — political, bureaucratic and moral   corruption reigning    at the highest levels.

 The  style  of  the  novel  is  too  pedestrian  and  some  of the sentences  are quite distracting   in places  like “ the speed with which she  “demolished “the food  ’(pg.51)   or  “in that case this lady is related to every man”(pg.99). 

 However, the saving grace is the touch of humour one finds in the   novel. For instance,    the first day of his arrival   Kasturi  wishes to visit Cannaught Palace  and wonders  which  of     the names  was right  — Connaught Place or Cannaught Circle?  He  decides to ask a young man  (who looks like a Tamilian  to him )   walking towards him. He  surmises  that      Tamilian youth  were well known for their collection of useless information  and his  assumption  proves right  as his informer regales him with a lot of details about  the building and the builder as well  (pg.13).

 What could also be said in favour of the novel is the way stark reality has been presented with regards to our national leaders and our national characteristic—giving advice to others. 

 There appears to be a similarity  between  the novel “Once an actress” by jayakanthan and  Wings in the void  by Indira Parthasarathy in that  their female characters  come out  as strong  and assertive individuals  whereas the  males  emerge  as   weak  and fickle minded. 

 n.meera raghavendra rao


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