BY SRINATH PERUR
It is safe to assume that any book of significance is hard to bring into the world. Even so, Kannada writer Vasudhendra’s collection of short stories Mohanaswamy has had a particularly precarious journey to publication. The year in which it was published, 2013, began with the author taking a bus from Hospet to the nearby Tungabhadra dam with the intention of drowning himself. His nerve failed and he returned. “Courage is not always a good thing,” he says, quite cheerfully, when we meet in Bengaluru in late 2016.
At the time, Vasudhendra was struggling with a severe bout of depression. It had begun some years previously when he found himself hopelessly distracted and unable to work. Sleep had been elusive for months. “I knew something was wrong,” he says, “but I didn’t know what it was.” Finally, he went to a psychiatrist, who told him he was clinically depressed and prescribed medication. The depression had returned in force when he made that trip to the dam. “You need food and sleep,” he recalls a psychiatrist telling him then. “You also need sex.”
For nearly 20 years, Vasudhendra had lived in a state of abeyance as far as sex and relationships were concerned. He had realised when he was in his teens, that he was attracted to men, then lived through the confusion and dread of growing up gay in a small town—Sandur in Karnataka. He recalls reading as a young man an advice column in a Kannada magazine that stated that “sarpadosha”—an astrological handicap meaning, literally, “snake-flaw”—was the cause for same-sex attraction in men. The prescribed remedy was to go to a Shiva temple daily, which Vasudhendra did, only to be tormented by nightmares featuring biting snakes.
When he was 20 or 21, he had a relationship with a man that ended in heartbreak when his partner left to marry a woman. In the aftermath, Vasudhendra made advances to a couple of male friends, who distanced themselves from him. “I became afraid I would be left alone in life,” he says. He threw himself into work, resisted social pressure to marry, and made no further attempts at relationships.
Vasudhendra did well in his career. He rose up the hierarchy in his day job at a technology company in Bengaluru, put in several stints in the UK. He grew in popularity as a writer, producing four collections of short stories, four collections of essays and a novel (but with no mention of gay characters or same-sex relationships except for a single short story from 2005). After his first breakdown, Vasudhendra decided he had no choice but to begin embracing his sexuality.
“Coming out should happen at 21-22, but I was around 40,” he says. He went online to find a community, and began going to the Thursday evening meetings of Good As You, an LGBT support group in Bengaluru. And he finally allowed himself to write freely about being gay. “It was then that I started writing the Mohanaswamy stories,” he says, Mohanaswamy being the name of his gay protagonist who in large measure is a stand-in for the author. The pent-up material was so rich that the first few stories tumbled out quickly—“taka-taka,” as he puts it in Kannada. It was an added source of reassurance that around this time the Delhi High Court effectively decriminalised homosexuality by throwing out parts of the Indian Penal Code’s section 377 which forbids “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. The ruling came in July 2009. The first three Mohanaswamy stories were written in August.
Still, having people read them was another matter. “I was sitting scared,” Vasudhendra says. It was three years before he allowed one of the stories to be published in the literary journal Deshakaala. It ran under the pseudonym Shanmukha S (after Ganesha’s brother, who in some traditions remains unmarried, or as Vasudhendra puts it: “I always thought of him as a bachelor boy.”) The story was well-received and Vasudhendra began to consider putting out a collection under his own name. Finding a publisher was not an obstacle since Vasudhendra had been publishing his own books since he founded the publishing company Chanda Pustaka in 2004. He prepared a collection titled Mohanaswamy after the protagonist of several of the stories.
The days leading up to a book’s publication are a nervous time for any author, but for Vasudhendra they were emotionally fraught for an added reason: he wanted to come out to friends and family before they read Mohanaswamy and made their own inferences.
“I told my sister I was gay one week before the book came out,” he says. The release date was December 11, 2013. On the same day, as the book became available in shops, the Supreme Court set aside the lower court’s 2009 ruling that can be said to have nudged the book into being. “I ran to a lawyer,” says Vasudhendra, who was doubly concerned as publisher and author. The lawyer told him he probably didn’t need to worry about the book getting him into legal trouble.
Vasudhendra did worry, however, about how the book would be received by his readers, who had no warning of what was coming. A much-beloved author of short stories and personal essays who usually wrote in modes of nostalgia or sentimentality, he was putting out a book that depicted gay relationships in domesticity and conflict, that looked closely at what it meant to be a gay man in a society that, when not being actively hostile or violent, reliably failed to create room for him.
This state of affairs was broadly reflected in Kannada writing too. In a 2016 essay, Vasudhendra shows with examples how sex between men in Kannada novels and short stories has usually been treated as depraved; or grudgingly accommodated as something men take recourse to when they lack the company of women, and something that can be redeemed by sufficient remorse and by straightening oneself out. He notes that a few sympathetic portrayals have come along in recent years, but these have often been limited in their understanding. The essay is titled “Gayness in Kannada Literature”, with the Kannada word “geyate” used playfully for gayness. In more standard use “geyate” is the quality of a poem that allows it to be sung, and so Vasudhendra’s larger implication is that Kannada literature loses something valuable by being surly about same-sex matters.
Mohanaswamy is perhaps the first book of fiction in Kannada with well-realised gay characters. As published in Kannada, it is a collection of 11 short stories and a poem, with six stories featuring the title character.
Mohanaswamy is perhaps the first book of fiction in Kannada with well-realised gay characters. As published in Kannada, it is a collection of 11 short stories and a poem, with six stories featuring the title character. In these stories, Mohanaswamy talks about an imaginary girlfriend to a fellow-passenger on a plane while mentally picturing the man he is in love with; he has his heart broken when the man he is in love with leaves to get married; in a moment of desire he feels up a friend, who then begins to blackmail him; he is shown around a model flat by a real-estate salesman who assumes he has a wife and children, and for that brief while Mohanaswamy is transported to a world that might have been; he visits his hometown to find that a childhood friend has been killed by his family for becoming a hijra; as he struggles to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, it begins to represent all that he has endured through his life. The book is dedicated: ‘To Mohanaswamy’s friends/To Mohanaswamy’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren/To Mohanaswamy’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather’.
For some years now T. Madhura has counted Vasudhendra among her favourite writers. She is in her 50s, works as a Vedic astrologer in Bengaluru, and mentions several times during our meeting that she comes from an orthodox family. She bought Mohanaswamy soon after its release and began to read it. She was revolted within the first few pages. “What is wrong with him,” she says she thought. “I finished it somehow. To tell the truth, I finished it just so that I could give him a proper scolding.” (Kannada writers tend to be approachable to readers, and as a result are often at the receiving end of swift, spirited reviews delivered in person.) An opportunity to meet Vasudhendra came soon enough. Madhura went to a temporary stall he had set up to sell books he published, and told him she hated the book. She recalls Vasudhendra telling her that in future he would try to write something she liked.
Then, Madhura read a newspaper interview with Vasudhendra where he spoke about how many of his character Mohanaswamy’s experiences were drawn from his own life. She hadn’t imagined that Vasudhendra himself might be gay. After she recovered from the shock, she called him on the phone, full of remorse, and apologised for her reaction. She asked him to give her some time to respond to the book.
“We are old-fashioned,” she says. “We look at everything in terms of what we are used to.” Though she was aware that there existed “people like that” she had not known anyone personally. Her vague understanding, she explains, was that same-sex relationships were a sort of wild indulgence, a result of lust run amok. “But Vasu-sir’s personality is decent. He is a popular writer. He has achieved a lot. It is easier to accept him.”
She talked to her children—in their twenties—and they both told her they knew people who were gay, that it was not something to be shocked about. She began to read Mohanaswamy again, this time with a more open mind, and with the ability to relate its events to someone she knew. She wept while reading parts of it.
In her living-room, Madhura reaches out for her copy of the book and reads out a passage with great feeling. It describes Mohanaswamy at the wedding of Kartik, a lover who has left him to marry a woman. Mohanaswamy is still attached to him, and while he has to play the part of a happy friend at the wedding, he is in deep pain. “As a woman, I realised that Mohanaswamy loved Kartik genuinely,” she says. “It wasn’t just sex, it was real love. They have feelings too, I found out for the first time.”
And as a woman, Madhura seems to have reflected upon other a few other things because of the book. From the experiences of her late mother, she’s seen close-up the stigma and loneliness that women face when their husbands are no more: “We should remove the word vidhve—widow—from use.” She recalls asking her grandmother as a child if it didn’t cause Draupadi pain when she was told to accept five husbands when she had bargained for one. She demonstrates how her grandmother had put her finger to her own lips and said, “Don’t ask such questions.”
Madhura believes Sita’s character has been depicted unfairly, especially in television, because it’s men who run the show, and they can’t deal with the idea of a strong woman: “They have made her a cry-baby.” By fleshing out some lives allowed limited expression in society, the book seems to have drawn Madhura’s attention to others. She says, emphatically: “The depression that Mohanaswamy goes through—all ladies face this.”
“I am making an effort,” Madhura says. “I need time to accept this as mainstream, but I’ve started.” Still, she says, “I cannot say that word.” (The word presumably being “gay”.) “Vasu-sir has gone through a lot of pain. This shouldn’t happen to anyone. I am traditional, but I want society to change.”
Madhura’s was one among a variety of reactions Vasudhendra saw after the book came out. Some people known to Vasudhendra had praised the pseudonymous story the previous year, but chose to say nothing when they learnt it was written by him. Then, there were others he knew who told him in confidence that they were gay or lesbian. “In three or four cases, mothers came to me,” Vasudhendra says. “They suspected their sons were gay. They asked if their sons can be changed.” Another woman went to Vasudhendra saying her son had told her he was gay, but she feared what her violent husband might do when told.
As publisher, Vasudhendra’s telephone number was on the copyright page of the book. He began to receive calls from strangers—some were propositions, but many were from gay men from across the state with accounts of sexual frustration, of feeling desperately lonely in villages and towns, of being stuck in marriages, of suicide attempts. In many cases, Vasudhendra was the first person they had ever spoken to about their sexuality.
“I realised that what this community needed was counselling,” says Vasudhendra. It was available, but mostly in cities, and more easily in English, which left large parts of the state uncovered. Vasudhendra was doing a one-year course on basic counselling skills when the book came out. When people started coming to him after reading the book, he found himself well-equipped to talk to them.
I asked Vasudhendra if I could speak with some of the readers who had got in touch with him to find out what the book meant to them in the context of their lives. He gave me a few numbers with the permission of the people they belonged to. They were willing to talk provided their identities were not revealed.
One of those calls to Vasudhendra came in 2015 from N, a man in his late fifties who lives in Hubli with his wife and children. He read a later Mohanaswamy story—titled “Aadabarada Maatu Kaaduvaaga (Troubled by that which should not be said)”—in the Kannada magazine Mayura. N called the magazine’s office at once and talked them into giving him Vasudhendra’s number. He called Vasudhendra and said, “This feels like it is written just for me. Did it come to you in a dream?”
N receives me at home, gives me a cup of tea, then suggests we go someplace quiet where we can talk. He is a compact, slender man, neatly dressed in bush-shirt and trousers. He leads the way to a small temple nearby, where there is no one at this time of the evening. “This is where I came to call Vasudhendra after reading the story,” he says. The story describes Mohanaswamy’s liking for drawing rangoli and wearing mehendi, his occasionally wearing his sister’s bangles, his father’s growing suspicions about his sexual orientation, and later when he’s an adult, his mother feeling him up when he’s asleep to rejoice, “My son is a man.”
“I have always known I was different,” N says. As a child he says he preferred games usually played by girls and he liked laying out rangoli. Other boys used to mock his gait, call him names. He had a few relationships with men in his late teens and early twenties, but they ended in heartbreak. When he was 20, for instance, N went to an RSS camp where he had a fleeting relationship with another participant. N was so taken with him that the pain of being separated after the camp caused him to try to end his own life.
His world was one in which it was hard enough, and risky enough, to find a partner: “If I see a beautiful boy, I feel like seeing him naked, I feel like holding him. Do I dare go and tell him I have these desires? And if I do, what might he do to me?” When he did find someone despite the odds, the relationship was usually furtive and doomed from the start. He attempted suicide thrice as a young man.
For a while, N resisted the pressure to marry. Then, he says relatives began to question his manhood. Life at home became difficult, in large part because of the constant pressure from his mother that he marry.
The parallel with Vasudhendra’s story that N found so striking came one day when she sat him down and asked if he got an erection when he watched what she termed obscene films. “Can you imagine a mother asking this to her son?” N says. Eventually, he cracked. “For my mother’s sake, I sacrificed my life and got married.”
“I feel I’m doing an injustice to my wife,” N says. They have two children, but the marriage is mostly a domestic arrangement. His desire to be with men remains a source of much frustration. And dread—because his attempts to fulfil that desire have to be kept from his family at all costs: “I will kill myself if my wife finds out.” He describes how he’s gone to desperate lengths and spent money he can ill-afford to court men. In the process, he’s been swindled and threatened with violence.
N is sickened by his own vulnerability. Sometimes, when he’s been alone at home, he has flung images of gods to the ground. Then, he says, tearing up, he’s sought forgiveness and reinstalled them. He’s come to think of himself and anyone who’s not straight as a “shaapagrasta gandharva”—a cursed celestial being. “My mental anguish remains till I die,” N says.
After reading the story in Mayura and speaking to Vasudhendra, N got hold of the collection. He says he read the title story—first published as “Mohanaswamy” in Deshakaala, then as “Kaggantu” in the collection—so many times that he ended up memorising it. “I still cry when I read that story,” he says. He travelled to Bengaluru to meet Vasudhendra, who offered him a meal and heard him out. He calls Vasudhendra on the phone sometimes to unburden himself. He says: “If I had encountered a book like Mohanaswamy before marriage, I would have confidently said ‘no’ to marriage. Like Vasudhendra, if I were not married, I would thump my chest and say I am gay.”
P is a 27-year-old farmer who lives in a village in Belgaum district and has certainly encountered Mohanaswamy. He’s read the book thrice. He’s attracted to men, but would like to get married, have children, and lead the life expected of him, if only because not doing so seems unimaginably hard from his position. “My family is like a beehive,” he says, explaining the imperative to proliferate. P lives with his parents, his brother and sister-in-law and their children. His sisters have married and left home. The family grows sugarcane, banana, and a variety of grains and pulses on the few acres of land they own.
The village is divided by the road, P tells me after he finds me at the bus-stop. Dalits live on one side and the rest—Lingayats, Marathas and Gowdas—on the other (though he explains that this separation is now followed less strictly, especially among people who moved to the village recently).
P has brought freshly-plucked tender coconuts from a tree on his land. He had planned to use a machete from a friend’s house near the bus-stop to open the coconuts, but the friend’s house is locked. So, he walks into another house nearby and emerges holding an axe with which he proceeds to expertly hack open the coconuts. Everyone knows everyone else here. If people ask, I’m a distant relative passing through. P leads me on a walk of a couple of kilometres, then on a clamber up a craggy hill before we settle on a ledge. Here, P says, we can talk freely without being interrupted or overheard.
P has spoken about his sexuality to three people until now—his former best friend, a psychiatrist in a nearby city, and Vasudhendra. He seems eager to talk—these are things he’s been over in his head many times without having said them nearly enough.
When P was 13, a semi-itinerant sadhu who spent part of his days in the village took him to an isolated place, telling him it was essential to check if he had “dhatu” (semen, in this context). Some combination of pleasure, guilt, shame and fear of exposure led to a pattern where P and the sadhu met at intervals through much of P’s adolescence. Eventually, P decided he had to be firm and avoid the sadhu. He suspects that he developed an attraction for the male form because of the sadhu. “I hate him,” he says.
When P told his best friend of many years that he was attracted to men, the friend took a while to overcome his initial disbelief, then gave his advice: “Kill yourself. It’ll only be a problem for your family.” Eventually he came around. He comforted P by saying that P would somehow find a partner—but added “don’t ask me for anything.” P is rueful now that he went on to proposition this friend. Later, when P grew insistent, the friend grabbed P’s mobile, deleted his own number from it and told P that they were strangers from then on. P believes his secret is safe even if they don’t acknowledge each other now. Still, this former friend’s land is right next to P’s, and it’s painful to have to see him all the time.
P’s parents are keen that he marry soon, and are looking forward to the prospect with some relish since P is considered quite a catch—he’s a hard worker, doesn’t smoke or drink. People in the village sometimes compliment him by saying, “If a son is born, he should be like you.” P says this brings him to tears. “My problem is not something I can share with anyone.” Certainly not with his parents: “Had they been educated, I could have told them something. They might die if I tell them how I feel.”
P has put off marriage so far, but he can’t for much longer. His confusion is intensified by his feeling that if indeed his being attracted to men is somehow the result of his experiences with the sadhu, perhaps it can be reversed, and his problems would vanish. P has trouble sleeping. It’s he who goes out to the field at night when the water-pump needs to be switched on. Alone in the dark, he often breaks down and weeps. His only other outlet is writing out his thoughts. He then burns the sheets of paper so they won’t be found by anyone.
He also reads. The village has a library where the only reading to be had comes from the three Kannada newspapers delivered to it. One of these newspapers has a column by a psychiatrist from Hubli, two-and-a-half hours away by bus. After a recent harvest, P took Rs 3,000 from the proceeds and went to find out if he could be treated in some way. At the psychiatrist’s clinic a counsellor saw him first to ask what he was there for. Unsure about trusting her with his secret, P lied. He said he had been in love with a girl and was in great pain after breaking up with her.
Inside the doctor’s office, he confessed that he had lied to the counsellor, told him his predicament, and said he was there to see if there was any way to change himself. P says the doctor administered an injection that made him feel woozy before subjecting him to questioning. P cannot remember the questions or his answers. When he recovered his senses, the doctor informed him that he could be “cured”.
P says he promised: “I’ll make you such that if you see a woman’s breasts you will be attracted to them.” For the time being, the doctor prescribed two pills used commonly as anti-depressants. P returned to his village and started taking them. When the initial course was finished, he felt it had made no difference to his sexual orientation, so he never went back to the doctor. He says, “Broken glass and a broken mind—they can never be mended.” He continues to take one of the pills because it helps him sleep.
It was again in the village library that P first learnt of Vasudhendra. Vasudhendra had written an article in the newspaper Prajavani about the lighter side of being gay in a society that refused to acknowledge same-sex relationships—a landlord who forbade Vasudhendra from having women visitors, but was perfectly fine with men coming over; a fellow pilgrim to Manasarovar who paid a man en route to massage his tired legs, thought he was being felt up, and grew so paranoid about strangers that he stuck to Vasudhendra for the rest of the trip, sleeping next to him and even insisting they walk out together to the toilet. P learnt about Mohanaswamy from the bio accompanying the article.
An opportunity arose for P to visit Bengaluru. He had applied to the state police for a constable’s job and was to report there for a test. As soon as he could, he went to a book shop in Bengaluru and bought Mohanaswamy. He sat in a park and read much of it. “It came as a mirror to my pain,” he says. He called Vasudhendra, arranged to meet him, and told him about his life, his feeling stuck in the village, the growing pressure to marry. Vasudhendra advised him to accept his sexuality. Since there was little chance of meeting other gay men in the village, he told P he could go online and talk to men from nearby cities.
P explains that while he would like to do this, his English, which he’s supposed to have studied in school but is in reality non-existent, poses a problem. You need some English to get going on the internet, whether you’re looking for information or porn or trying to register on a dating site. P would have to travel 15 kilometres to the nearest town with an internet centre (he doesn’t have a smart phone). And he can’t afford to fumble his way onto the internet because he’s heard from friends that the computer records a history of online activity. He doesn’t know how to get rid of it, and he can’t have it known so close to home that he’s been looking at or for other men, or even educating himself about same-sex relationships.
There doesn’t seem to be much in Kannada off the internet either. Vasudhendra says, “There is not a single book in Kannada about being gay.” He’s planning to write or translate one himself, a sort of FAQ to be made available at low cost. An important area it would address is health. Of the men Vasudhendra counsels, three are HIV-positive. He recalls one of them telling him why he didn’t use protection with the partner he contracted it from: “He was smartly dressed and spoke English, so I thought it would be okay.”
Returning to P, he sees two paths in front of him, both going in entirely opposite directions. A girl in his village has a crush on him and has been suggesting they have a relationship before her marriage is arranged with someone else. (She and P are from incompatible castes, so she’s only being pragmatic.) P is willing because it would let him assess his ability to lead a married life with a woman, but he’s also hesitant because of what he, and possibly others, might find out. He would like to do what is expected of him and marry, but is worried about losing face if he can’t have kids or if his wife ends up sleeping with other men. It might be easier, he says, tearing up, to just have an accident and die so that his family is spared the disappointment.
P has never actually had a relationship as an adult. His other plan, a result of talking to Vasudhendra, is to buy a smart phone with the proceeds of the next harvest, and learn to use Grindr to talk to men in nearby Belgaum. Maybe even move to a city and lead a life independent of all he has known, but he’s aware that that will take some doing.
“In a city you need money to live, in the village it’s easier,” A says. He is 21, and lives in a small town in Uttara Kannada district. He moved to a larger place to study but soon life became unbearable. He was living with his brother, who felt he was losing face because A’s behaviour—his interest in dance, the clothes he liked to wear—was unmanly. He started to be physically violent with A in an effort to change him. In addition, one of A’s male class-mates began to stalk him—calling him at all times, following him on a motorcycle, on one occasion even grabbing A’s arm and twisting it. A abandoned his studies and returned home, where people have known him since he was a child. Here he teaches painting and dance to children. “There’s a comfort to being among children,” he says.
During his time in college, A encountered an old essay by Vasudhendra as part of the Kannada syllabus. After learning about the author he bought Mohanaswamy at once. “I have read it many times,” he says. He recalls the story “Tagani” (Bedbug) affecting him particularly deeply. It shows a man’s family feeling so threatened by his behaving like, and then becoming, a woman, that they murder him and pass it off as suicide. “I was very hurt by that story,” A says.
He called Vasudhendra on the number from the book’s copyright page and found him a sympathetic listener. They met subsequently when Vasudhendra visited a nearby town, and they continue to speak occasionally on the phone. As a result, he says, “I’ve learnt to emerge from my small world.” In 2015, he accompanied Vasudhendra to the pride parade in Bengaluru. “I found out there are many others like me,” he says. “There are burning coals coated with ash. We must blow on them.”
Just what can a book do in the world? Certainly, it’s done much for Vasudhendra himself. “This is the most that any author can get out of a book,” he says. “My depression came down after I wrote this book.” He still goes into the occasional slump, though not as severely as before. “It is a known devil now,” he says. Vasudhendra and the book came out together. It was only after its publication that he began to have relationships—after more than two decades.
Then there are readers who find their lives reflected in the book—men like P, who says the book came as a mirror to his pain; N, whose reckoning of his own life has been influenced by it; A, who has found a community through Vasudhendra and his participation in the pride parade. When I met them, both P and N independently asked who else I was meeting in the vicinity for this story and if I would put them in touch. N put it poetically: “Nothing like that,” he told me, lest I think he was being opportunistic, “I only want to talk to someone as a companion in the same misery.”
I gave them each other’s numbers and these two men—a middle-aged man who regrets having married, and a young man who would like to marry—spoke on the phone and arranged to meet. N took along his clippings of Vasudhendra’s articles, many of which P hadn’t read. They speak on the phone from time to time. P continues to call Vasudhendra every few weeks, and since we met has started to do the same with me—we talk about how we’re dealing with demonetisation, upcoming village fairs, why it would take me so long to write this article, and so on. It still isn’t clear how P will resolve his quandary, but it’s encouraging to know that the isolation he lived in for years isn’t as absolute anymore.
At least a few people out there are thankful to Mohanaswamy without knowing it. Madhura, the astrologer, told me about worried parents who came to her with the horoscope of their daughter. She had had an arranged marriage only six months previously, but was insisting on a divorce without giving any reasons. Madhura thinks of herself as a counsellor who helps people get through difficult life situations. She usually prescribes a remedy—an offering or a ceremony of some sort. She was about to do the same in this case when she paused. She told the parents she wanted to meet their daughter in private.
When they met, she told the young woman that she could speak freely. It turned out her husband had shown no interest in starting a physical relationship with her, and had refused to discuss the matter or get help. And this wasn’t a subject she could bring up with her parents. Madhura then spoke to the parents and advised them that a divorce seemed the best outcome in the situation. Their daughter had bright prospects for a second marriage, she told them. Madhura thinks she would have missed the young couple’s predicament if not for her somewhat dramatic engagement with Mohanaswamy. She’s now interested in finding an astrological basis for same-sex attraction, and has requested Vasudhendra for his horoscope so she can investigate (though he is having none of it). The stuff of books propagates in strange ways.
Books themselves, too. While I was in his village, P had a favour to ask. He got out his copy of Mohanaswamy from a bag. He explained that he had kept the book hidden in his house so his family would not find it and grow suspicious. As he did with his own writing, he intended to destroy the book after reading it, but Mohanaswamy had come to mean so much to him that he could not bring himself to burn it. He asked me to take his copy with me: “If you know someone who might want to read it, give it to them.”
Corrections, June 6, 2017:
An earlier version of the article quoted Vasudhendra saying he was “almost 40” when the book came out. It should be read as “around 40”. Unlike previously stated Vasudhendra was already enrolled in a counselling course when Mohanaswamy was published.
Srinath Perur is the author of the travelogue If It’s Monday It Must Be Madurai and the translator of Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar.
(From the June 2017 edition of the Fountain Ink.)