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Possession Extremely grippingPossession is different from the other novels written by the author Its action shuffles from India to London and back again to India In theme it is far wider and universal The narrator Anasuya is not the protagonist but a minor character Beautiful but domineering Lady Caroline Bell and Valmiki or Val an illiterate peasant boy with a gift for painting are the central figures Lady Caroline accompanied by Ansuya goes to a village and there she comes across Valmiki She sees potentialities in this boy and her urge for power and possession takes him away from his village Val goes with Lady Caroline to London and smart society Val becomes a celebrity with his Eastern features with his monkey perched on his shoulders and his wonderful soulful paintings As Val grows into a handsome young man Lady Caroline falls in love with him and wants to possess him Elie the refugee working maid of Lady Caroline is the first love of Val She becomes pregnant and Lady Caroline manages to turn her out without Val's knowledge Then the Swamy comes to England; to counteract the Swamy's influence on Val Lady Caroline takes him on a tour of America After returning from the tour Val meets Annable a young artist Their love is mutual and Val leaves Lady Caroline and goes to live in a garret with Annable Here too Lady Caroline succeeds in breaking their love by revealing the story of Elie Val comes back to India and to the Swamy Does Caroline make a last effort to take him back? You have to read the novel to find the answer Written very grippingly Kamala Markandaya's writings have always intrigued me largely because of the times she lived in and the socio cultural themes they therefore brought out In this book for instance there were at least two themes I could make out The first is obvious enough and also stems from the title a battle between the spiritual and the material The story begins with Anasuya a writer becoming the inadvertent connector of two lives Caroline Bell a rich divorced beautiful English lady with an iron will and Valmiki a poor peasant boy who is also a gifted artist Valmiki's parents have a very dim view of him and the only person who sees his talent is Swamy an ascetic who lives a solitary life in the hills near Valmiki's village Valmiki is swept away by Caroline to London where she introduces him to her society and culture and tries to help him develop his talent But it isn't all altruistic even as Val's talent ensures his popularity Caroline extends their relationship and ensures that he feels beholden to her She goes to every extent to destroy any competition that arises and succeeds In a sense it is difficult to say who possesses and who is possessed Swamy's mostly invisible hand brings out the battle between spirituality and material successI also thought there was a subtle India British theme at play specially because the book is also set around the time of independence Again the possession thought can be applied to the relationship between the two nations as wellI found it a reasonably good study of human motivations and relationships and if one considers the era in which it was written a book arguably ahead of its timeThis story vaguely reminded me of Daniel Keyes's science fiction short story Flowers for Algernon Kamala Markandaya's book was study of human motivations and relationships between people from different cultures India and Great Britain and different economical and social statuses It was kind of interesting reading about duel between materialism and art The minus for me was one of main characters Anasuya She is narrator of the story She told the story as she was looking from distance In the same time she was active character In this way Anasuya became not believable character for me Caroline thinks Valmiki belongs to her People don’t easily give up what they think are their possessions The English never have’Anasuya an Indian writer meets the wilful Lady Caroline Bell at a party and is soon swept away by the manic energy that surrounds her She watches as Caroline takes charge of Valmiki a humble shepherd boy who expresses himself through painting and whisks him away from his ragged family in a small south Indian village to London introducing him to modernity luxury and high societyInitially dependent on Caroline Valmiki becomes increasingly like her learning the ways of the West through her unorthodox methods But he is also unable to sever all connections with his past as he depends eually on the Swamy an ascetic who first recognized his talent As he grows to become his own person one who sees the people and things around him as his possessions Valmiki uestions whether Caroline’s motives for nurturing him are purely altruistic and turns to the Swamy for adviceAnasuya who has been a mute spectator to Caroline’s games and machinations fears for Valmiki’s well being as the Swamy and Caroline head towards an inevitable clash of egos one that is sure to end in destructionIn Possession Kamala Markandaya deftly explores the ties that bind benefactor and artist master and disciple displaying the ease with which boundaries can blur turning patronage into possession


About the Author: Kamala Markandaya

Pseudonym used by Kamala Purnaiya Taylor an Indian novelist and journalist A native of Mysore India Markandaya was a graduate of Madras University and afterward published several short stories in Indian newspapers After India declared its independence Markandaya moved to Britain though she still labeled herself an Indian expatriate long afterwardKnown for writing about culture clash betwe


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