Bangalore, India 1991. Ashok Rao, a brilliant young Indian doctor, has returned home from England to choose a bride.
But who is the intriguing Englishwoman who seeks him out? Why is she afraid and what is the secret that binds them together?
The lives of two strangers are turned upside down when they meet and are threatened by the aftermath of a tragedy that touched both their lives years earlier. The Moon's Complexion is a tale of love across cultural boundaries. It is also a breath-taking thriller played out in the mystical lands of Southern India and Sri Lanka and in the icy countryside of winter England.
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Extract from Chapter 7: They explored the temple site, the hot stones preventing them from lingering at each shrine for more than a minute, and then only by hopping constantly from foot to foot, until overwhelmed by the forces of nature and man, one ferocious, the other sublime, their animated spirits could barely prop up their exhausted limbs.
They came out onto the village road and hurried into the shade of a roadside workshop, where a stone carver crouched on the ground putting the finishing touches to a fist-sized, blue-grey soapstone Ganesh. Around him stood the fruits of his previous labours, gods and goddesses of every shape and size, some scarcely bigger than a thumbnail; others huge enough to stand alone upon a temple floor or grace the household shrine of a wealthy family.
'Stone-cutting is a speciality of this region,' said Ashok. Hannah picked up the newly completed Ganesh. Her eyes travelled over the reclining figure's curved lines and the curling trunk of the elephant head.
'He's perfect. He should be the god of happiness.' She ran her finger over the smooth surface of the stone.
'He who is attired in a white garment,' said Ashok, taking the figure gently from Hannah, and smiling at her with his eyes, 'and has the complexion of the moon; on him we meditate for the removal of obstacles.'
Hannah's eyes smiled back at him, awe-inspiring and yet awed, radiating desire and allure in equal measure.
'It is part of a prayer to Lord Ganesha,' Ashok said. He broke free from her gaze. He hated himself for what he had to do.
Ashok had come home to Bangalore to find a wife. Or to put it more precisely, Dr. Ashok Rao, newly qualified consultant ophthalmologist at Queen Anne’s Hospital, London, had been ordered by his mother back to Bangalore for purposes of matrimony.
It was December 1991 and exactly a month since his mother’s letter had arrived at his Richmond flat.
Now that your sister’s marriage is arranged, she had written, time is for you also to settle down. Not wait for Priya being married. Your sister is strong-headed. She will not consent before she is graduating. You are already nearly thirty, and now you are a qualified consultant. You must come as soon as convenient.
The rest of the letter was filled with news from Bangalore and had immersed him in the sunshine of his native city. When he had finished reading, he had placed the letter in the rack on the kitchen table. Then he got ready to leave the house. As he turned up the collar of his overcoat and stepped out into the clawing November drizzle, he reflected that his mother was right. She had mirrored his thoughts, despite the cynicism of disbelieving friends, the perpetual students from his Oxford days, who still regarded themselves as carefree and without responsibility. Ashok had rocketed up the career ladder and had achieved the almost unheard of status of a consultancy before he was thirty, while his friends were still struggling young lawyers, scientists and doctors who couldn’t even envisage “settling down.”
But over and above all that, it was hard for his English friends to stomach the idea of an arranged marriage. Ashok, though, could slip easily across the cultural divide. India, England—worlds apart, but nevertheless both part of Ashok’s world and combining to furnish him, perhaps, with broader insights than those of some of his acquaintances.
In any case, his friends had missed the point. Once he had listened to his heart and not his head. He’d learned his lesson. It had taken five years for the pain to cease, and had left him steeped in remorse. Now he sought a surer, steadier road. It hadn’t been a case of capitulating to his parents’ wishes.