Book Review: Bhaunri by Anukrti Upadhyay

Book Name: Bhaunri

Author: Anukrti Upadhyay

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins

Rating: 5/5

Book Blurb: Can too much love be a dangerous thing? Bhaunri is married, as is the custom in her tribe of nomadic blacksmiths, when she is still a child. When she is finally sent away to her husband’s home as a young woman, she finds herself drawn deeply and powerfully towards the gruff and handsome Bheema. Bheema, however, is far from the ideal husband, and when he strays one time too many, Bhaunri’s love for him begins to fester and grow into something dark and fearsome. This is a story of obsessive love and the destructive power of desire. Half real and half fable, and redolent with the songs and myths, the beauty and mystery of Rajasthan, Anukrti Upadhyays Bhaunri announces the arrival of a powerful new literary talent.

Review: Anukrti Upadhyay’s debut work, Bhaunri is set in Rajasthan and is about the protagonist Bhaunri who hails from a nomadic tribe. Bhaunri takes after her mother who eloped for love and refused to remain with an old man that she was married to.

The customs of the nomadic tribes, their mannerisms have been captured well in the book. Anukrti’s voice is consistent and she weaves a good yarn. Bhaunri refuses to remain under the command of her powerful husband Bheema who is unused to the idea of a woman asserting herself.

Bhaunri finds solace in the company of her father in law but such interactions are frowned upon in rural societies. The author must have researched well to have captured the essence of nomadic customs and she explains it very well. A book is well written if it moves like a film and Anukrti manages to “show us” rather than “just tell.”

Even though Bhaunri has a fire raging inside her, she has simple dreams and her primary desire is that her relationship with Bheema be exclusive- and much of the ensuing drama has its roots in the husband’s infidelity. Bhaunri’s beauty and her stubborn behaviour coupled with her desire to be the architect of her own destiny makes for a fascinating read.

Anukrti’s writing has a poetic undertone and her language is simple yet assertive. Her voice never falters and there is never a dull moment in Bhaunri.

“Make no mistake, wife, Bhaunri is your daughter and mine. If you are flint, she is steel. This is a good match. She will be comfortable, she will eat wheat chapatis with cow milk and butter, and rest on a soft cotton mattress. Don’t imagine snakes under every shade-tree.”

This book could have been developed into a larger body of work but given that its a debut novel, its understandable that the work has been kept short and concise. This is perhaps the only shortcoming of this brilliant work.

Anukrti Upadhyay’s Bhaunri heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in Indian fiction.

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