“Mahashweta” by Shrimati Sudha Murthy is an interesting novel about a girl – Anupama who is born in a small Karnataka village as the daughter of Shamanna, a school teacher to his first wife. She loses her mother when barely a year old child.
Her father marries another lady – Sabhakka, a loud mouthed, domineering woman. While Anupama is beautiful, well -mannered, talented and intelligent, her step sisters are just the opposite.
Anupama comes across a young handsome doctor Anand while selling tickets for raising funds for a drama by the great Sanskrit scholar Banabhatta. A part of Banabhatta’s great novel ‘Kadambari’ is dramatized and Anupama enacts the part of the heroine Mahashweta.
Dr. Anand is love struck and manages to convince his rich mother into accepting Anupama as her daughter-in-law. The mother who is status conscious, agrees reluctantly. After the marriage, Anand leaves for higher studies to England with the understanding that Anupama will join him after a couple of months after completing Lakshmi puja.
All of a sudden, a white patch appears on the skin of Anupama’s leg. Further events take the expected twists and turns, with the mother in law being only too happy to send Anupama packing to her parents’ home.
Letters to Dr. Anand meet with silence. On an invitation from her friend and roommate, Anupama shifts to Bombay. After working as a clerk for about a year, Anupama gets the job of a Sanskrit teacher in a college and slowly forgets her painful past. While recovering from a fractured leg in an accident, two doctors Vasant and Satya become her true friends.
Vasant proposes to Anupama but the proposal is rejected by her. Similarly she rejects all attempts by her husband Dr Anand to join him. She decides to continue her present life style with her students and keep directing dramas.
The novel clearly brings out the stigmas attached to leukoderma, a society that has blind beliefs, the arrogance of rich people, greed of men and women, eagerness of good doctors keen on helping the poor and needy and so on.
The author’s keen observation of life in Mumbai can be seen in the following lines – “In a place like Bombay even the mad rush has a human side to it.”
You cannot help appreciating Anupama’s response to a question from Dr. Vasant when he asks her “Who will look after you in your old age?” The stunning reply is “Do you really think we should marry and have children so that we have someone to look after us in our old age? That is not right. Others have their own lives to lead too.”
We feel Anupama is justified when she taunts her husband when he addresses her by her name as Anupama. “You are a well educated man from a good family, but there is one thing you have not learnt. You should never call a woman whom you do not know by her given name!” A fitting reply indeed to the so-called well educated doctor, who behaved as a coward.
He did not have the guts, even though he was a doctor, to tell and convince his arrogant mother that leukoderma is not a hereditary disease nor is it contagious. The pigment deficiency can be cured by proper treatment.
Dr. Anand deserted Anupama when she needed him the most. When she has faced all the odds in her life successfully, his begging her to come into his life once again deserves nothing but contempt.
I am glad I could get a chance to read this novel by Sudha Murty, yes, better late than never!