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Harbhajan S Sandhu

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Hindustan Times: Professional Book Review by Meeta Chaitanya Bhatnagar
Friday, August 15, 2003  2:37:00 PM

by Harbhajan S Sandhu

A Professional Book review: "WAYWARD BRAHMIN" by Harbhajan Singh Sandhu: Meeta Chaitanya Bhatnagar: Hindustan Times

Wayward Brahmin: Tale of sexual lust, philosophy, space-time, and a man's search for meaning
Harbhajan Singh Sandhu
1st Books Library, US
Pages 242

Wayward Brahmin makes you take notice. An unusually striking title for a book that is written with atypical dexterity, Wayward Brahmin transfixes its narrative gaze upon the reader with rare grit and grip.

The book is first in lot of ways. This is the author's first novel, and he has, for good, for bad, for both, written it in a singular fashion. First the simple component, the airy adumbration...Mo, a Brahmin from rural India travels to America for his post graduate education and his subsequent unrelenting tenure in the land of opportunity, thereafter, ever after.

Hereon, both the author and the reader scuttle ferociously through the inimitable sexual and, well, other, adventures of the hot-blooded, full throttle, energetic protagonist who, for some godforsaken reason meets (and beds without exceptin) every woman who comes his way. There is one in every chapter, by the way.

Only, each encounter, both in its ineptitude (initially) and vividness (thereafter, ever after) is laced with a generous helping of Singh's unique brand of humour. Not entirely without eroticism, these episodes are absorbing because they explore and hilariously explode with the hypocrisy and false visage Mo and his ladies endeavor to extol while they strip themselves, and each other ravenously, shamelessly of those very edicts. And so, Mo remains an ardent Brahmin who thanks God after consumation, and Miss Black returns to marry a black from her own race, from fear of being ostracized forever.

Punjabi, the narrator is the empathetic compatriot who relates the viccitudes of Mo's life inninngs, oops sexual meanderings, to an engrossed listener, Listener, and to the vexed reader, you! If this makes the tale unconventionally, generically related to the Genesis of God, Adam and Eve, the author lets you think so. If this makes the tale an accidental perfidy of the long lost Morality play, he lets it be. 
Anyhow, there are these prototypical characters, personifying needless to say the browbeaten essence of what-the-name-stans-for (Punjabi, for instance hails from the sexually repressive rural India, never mind what you think) that roll on, relating the adventure of a newcomer, a newcomer from the 'sexually repressed rural India' in an unimaginably advanced and sumptuously liberal American milieu.

That apart, Wayward Brahmin is a strikingly original attempt to draw together concepts as disparate as theories of physics, Indian theology, sexual impulsions, to man's spirit of adventure. Blck holes, Norvava, Doppler effect, Bhagvad Gita, Ring Nebulae are all suffused as debatable subjects of interpretation in the characters' and author's minds. Which, in itself is remarkable. The book merits a read because of the way Singh manages to infuse interest into a fiction-subject as drab as clinical physics, through sexual rhetoric. Singh's mastery over the language he writes in is pleasantly edifying. It is the second element that saves the book from being classified as pornopraphy wannabe, and rejected as a bad porography wannabe!

As for the 'sexually repressive rural India'; think again. The sexual matrix in rural India is a feisty part of the so-called erotic-exotic-esoteric Oriental creed, in its vital form if you may. Also, whatever you may have us believe, not every blonde blue-eyed damsel in America is ready to jump into bed with a 'dark stranger' at the drop of a hat. And, despite all our dreamy notions and love potions, the authorial insistence on both these trends weighs far too heavy on the reader's discernment.

Wayward Brahmin remains exhilarating and debilitating. It is worth a read because it evokes such disparate responses between the pages, and also because it mirrors unerringly the author's intense commitment to a subject he clearly holds close to his heart.

 More News about Harbhajan S Sandhu
Wayward Brahmin" in hardcover edition - 12/22/2002 6:19:00 PM

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