Bhairavi: The Runaway by Shivani

A young, married woman, on her honeymoon, jumps off a train and is brought to an Aghori ashram. What propelled her to take such drastic measures, and what’s to become of her amongst people whose lives look dissonant from her own?

A novel translated from Hindi, Bhairavi is the story of how circumstances change the paths in front of us.

Copyright © 2022 Meera Nair

I stumbled across this book during a sale. Prior to that, I hadn’t heard of Shivani, which probably says something about how a lot of vernacular Indian authors still aren’t as widely celebrated and discussed as they ought to be.

The introduction written by the author’s daughter sheds light on the context within which the author’s works were published and how they were received in society.

I quite liked reading that section as it resonated with me and the literary analysis informed my thinking in a way.

That being said, I haven’t read any of Shivani’s works in Hindi, so I wouldn’t be a fair judge of how well the story has been translated. Yet, the cultural motifs and linguistic nuances are apparent in this book, thereby retaining an essence of the original text.

Chandan’s character is an almost passive presence throughout the story until we get to the flashback point where we find out what happened to her before she arrives at the ashram.

There isn’t much to her personality that comes across strongly. For the most part, she is shown as being under the influence of one or the other character – her mother, her husband, and then Charan. Even her secondary identity, that of Bhairavi, is something that’s given to her by others.

There are times when the narrative meanders aimlessly, and I wished there had been a sense of direction in the storytelling.

I feel that this novel wasn’t for me. I was hoping to have a better reading experience than I actually did. It probably has something to do with the writing style and the characters.

Apart from the glimpse of Aghoris, the only other thing that I liked about reading Bhairavi is how it is filled with dark and ghoulish imagery. These visuals of caves, forests, snakes, funerals, chanting, intoxication, etc. add a certain tone to the story that is memorable.

The ending is somewhat undefined, and for the first time, I felt a spark in Chandan’s character as she is compelled to write her own destiny.

On the whole, I don’t regret picking it up, but I wouldn’t recommend the novel.

Published by Meera Nair

A 27 year-old freelance Content Writer, who spends all her free time ensconced in the pages of a book or writing to her heart's content about topics that excite the creative spirit in her.

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