The effort to reach down to that
Indian essence, Munjal has employed the known techniques, but
since the dialectic of the story is not fully dramatised, it
remains an epical novel with intensity of idiom as its chief
Swept Away is
not a historical novel as such, and the events enacted in the
small obscure hill state of Chamba take place far from the
general eye. Of course, Munjal has done a fair amount of
research to be able to create the ambience of the Raj nearly a
century ago. And he does succeed in making it a ‘period’
novel. So, again the vast colonial problem, with all its
political implications and consequences, a story of the
small-time ‘royals’ is hoisted.
Charm—of nature’s bounties and beauties—has been
rendered with artistic restraint as well as opulence in
relation to the scenes in question. And, of course, the palace
aura, manners and mannerisms, the royal appetite for wines and
viands, the fawning courtiers happy to bend their knees for
small change, the royal ceremonies, rituals and icons etc. are
woven into the fabric of the story, becoming constitutive in
who’s called Hukam (an Indian way of saying ‘Your Highness’)
has a quite, sobering presence, and keeps the palace brood
humoured as well as his tenants and tillers, the source of his
revenue. And in all this story of turns and twists, the
British guest, Janet Spencer and her maid companion begin now
to run away with the story, so to speak.
‘fixation’ of the Indian psyche is now at work,
particularly among the servitors. Meanwhile, the Hari Janet
romance of thought, word, repartee and love-play, dodges and
screens blossoms out into a protracted affair. The epistolary
exchange in long, passionate outbursts laced with limericks,
and with English verse reduces the dramatic interest, though
its lighter side has an amusing variety.
his missives (also sometimes love-missiles) as ‘Your Brogue’.
And the word ‘brogue’ which means a country-shoe as also
"ornamental countrified" speech, seems to define
their ding-dong relationship.
Munjal has yet a plateful of surprises to offer. One of these
is the old strick of producing ‘a skeleton in the family
cupboard’. For now, suddenly we learn that when Hari’s
father, a faithful courtier died and Hari’s mother was
forced to commit sati by the Rajput Maharani, Hukam had to pay
conscience price — the adoption of the boy Hari as a prince
of the family.
India with all its complexities and miseries too is structured
into the story through the interminable homilies and dialogues
of Panditji and Teacher, and the lesson of the Gita — Lord
Krishna’s advice to Arjun on the battle-ground of
Kurukshetra — is drummed up to give the novel its ‘Indianness’.
But there are too many hares, and Munjal cannot run them to
ground. Still, the fare is adequate.
How should we, then, weigh
and evaluate this big book, so well-produced and so
presentable? That it’s a very good ‘read’ should be
clear by now. I’m tempted to call it an epic manque, a novel
that misses epical proportions because of the inherent