The Two Krishnas

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In the tradition of A Fine Balance and The Namesake, The Two Krishnas is a sensual and searing look at infidelity and the nature of desire and faith. At the center of the novel is Pooja Kapoor, a betrayed wife and mother who is forced to question her faith and marriage when she discovers her banker husband, Rahul, has fallen in love with a young, male Muslim illegal immigrant who happens to be their son's age. Faced with the potential of losing faith in Rahul, divine intervention, and family, she is forced to ...
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Overview


In the tradition of A Fine Balance and The Namesake, The Two Krishnas is a sensual and searing look at infidelity and the nature of desire and faith. At the center of the novel is Pooja Kapoor, a betrayed wife and mother who is forced to question her faith and marriage when she discovers her banker husband, Rahul, has fallen in love with a young, male Muslim illegal immigrant who happens to be their son's age. Faced with the potential of losing faith in Rahul, divine intervention, and family, she is forced to confront painful truths about the past and the duality in God and husband.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Advance Praise

"The Two Krishnas is a beautiful, sometimes joyful, yet heartbreaking exploration of love in all its manifestations. Here it is many days later, and I still find myself thinking about Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla's insights into the fierceness and frailty of the human heart. Oh, the things we will do for and in the name of love. Dhalla is a brilliant young writer, and his novel is exquisite, drenched in emotion, and timely."
- Lisa See, best-selling author of Shanghai Girls and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

"In The Two Krishnas, a novel filled with unexpected turns and beauty, Ghalib Shiraz has examined with perceptive compassion the complex and heart-wrenching ties that bind families, and the secret desires that pull them apart.
- Chitra Divakaruni, best-selling author of The Palace of Illusions

"Shiraz immerses us in his gripping narrative as he delves into the nooks and crannies of human desire and explores both its splendor and the havoc it can wreak. A formidably intelligent and adept writer, he has stretched my understanding of a world I know very little about with this touching and masterfully written novel."
- Bapsi Sidhwa, author of New York Times Notable novel Cracking India

"Half Bollywood, half Hollywood love story set in contemporary Los Angeles that is both up-to-the-minute and drenched in a romantic doom as riveting as the myths of ancient India, The Two Krishnas is a skillfully plotted story of divided loyalties that has so much heart it's at times painful to read, but is far too honest to put down—a fascinating read.”
—Andrew Holleran, author of Grief

"Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla writes with a voice that is both agile and compassionate. He renders scenes of great emotion with equal parts passion and precision. At it's core, The Two Krishnas is a classic tale of tragic, forbidden love, but Dhalla infuses it with an astute discussion of Hindu culture that should appeal to a broad cross-section of readers.
- Christopher Rice, New York Times best-selling author of A Density of Souls and Blind Fall.

"The Two Krishnas is a powerful, sure footed novel of love, longing and loss that richly portrays life like no other work of fiction I've read. With his complex cast of characters and poetically drawn landscapes, Dhalla's talent shines and he shows us he's wise beyond his years."
- Mark Jude Poirier, author of Goats and Modern Ranch Living

Reviews

“Serves as an exploration of love in its many forms: romantic, familial, and filial, among others. The novel provides a refreshing view of life and love in Los Angeles, particularly in the South Asian immigrant community…The Two Krishnas isn’t strictly an immigrant narrative, a coming out narrative, or a religious narrative but rather lies somewhere between them all…The book draws a distinct line between love and passion and the way in which those feelings move us to action…A poignant mediation on love and relationship. The novel prompts reflection on how we form our identities and ultimately questions our duties to our families and ourselves.” – Los Angeles Magazine.

“Stands to be added to such to be added to novels such as The Namesake and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan as a story that blends relatable human drama with the tapestry of different cultures.”
– Frontiers Magazine.

“Plays out like a modern Shakespearean tragedy. Krishnas is a multilayered, richly written story exploring a sexless marriage, a family drifting apart, the trappings of middle age, the thrill and fear of newfound same-sex love and the cultural insights of those that have immigrated to our country.”
- Instinct Magazine.

“Ghalib Shiraz houses magic in his eyes, or in his hands or in his brain…He writes with such fluid prose that each page approaches a lapse into poetry. Not only is his story one which defies the reader to pause before the complex story plays out, but it also informs us of the myriad aspects of immigration and the sense of being dispossessed. In short this is a compelling novel that not only grows into our psyche but also quietly changes the way we perceive the injustices around us. There is so much in this novel to mesmerize the reader that words in a review falter in attempting to express the impact of this fine novel. Rarely has a love story in all its facets and permutations been so consistently effective and affecting. Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla is an inordinately gifted writer - one of our best. His gift is extravagant but it is also keenly honed in subtlety. We should be hearing a lot more about him in the coming months and years.”
– Good Reads.

“As with Ode to Lata, his (semi) autobiographical debut novel about a young Hindu man coming to terms with being gay, out Indian author, Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla continues to write about provocative subject matters.”
- Advocate Magazine

“Worlds clash and lives are destroyed…(Dhalla) wrote this book because he wanted to expose the catastrophes people create when they lie to themselves as well as the people they love…Ghalib peppers his story with full-on drama and the book describes both the city of LA and the lives of its desi immigrants extremely evocatively.”
– VERVE Magazine

“Another masterfully written novel by the brilliant young writer Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla, an accomplished filmmaker and author of the critically acclaimed novel Ode to Lata. This fiction novel is simply wonderful.”
– Sahara Time

“The Exiles [Two Krishnas/US] by Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla is a book about love coming out of the closet, and since it is not exactly between man and wife, there is inevitable trauma in the family...Dhalla has detailed all this with fascinating humanity and compassion.”
– Afternoon Despatch & Courier

“Grappling with the infidelity of your spouse is painfoul enough. Making it harder for Pooja Kapoor, a successful caterer, is the fact that Rahul, a high-flying banker, has given his heart to a young Muslim man, Atif. This forces the entire family, including their son Ajay, to recalibrate their definitions of right, wrong, morality, acceptability, sin and redemption. An intriguing premise by author-columnist-filmmaker Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla made even more magnetic by his lyrical prose inspired by Sufi poetry, Hindu culture and mythology. Indeed, The Two Krishnas (The Exiles) is the kind of book you engage with on so many levels – the plot itself, with its arresting characters; the deeper questions it throws up about our fragile truths, sexual politics and gender orientation; and most of all, the remarkable telling of it all. Sensitive, searing, sensual and always compassionate, Dhalla transports us to the crossroads of faith and fealty, duty and desire – and then shows us the way home, to the heart.”
– Harmony India.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936833009
  • Publisher: Magnus Books
  • Publication date: 11/15/2011
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Los Angeles-based writer-director-producer, Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla was born in Mombasa, Kenya. His work has appeared in various national publications including Instinct, Angeleno, and Genre, and celebrated at MIT (2004), the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (2009), and the Yale Master's Tea (2011). Dhalla's critically-acclaimed debut novel, "Ode to Lata," was hailed by The Los Angeles Times as “an achievement” and by the Library Journal as “brilliant.” In 2008, "Ode to Lata" was turned into the major motion picture "The Ode," which was written, produced and co-directed by Dhalla. A passionate activist, Dhalla also co-founded the South Asian program at the Asian Pacific Aids Intervention Team and is one of the founding members of Satrang, a support group for LGBT and questioning South Asians in Los Angeles. In 2009, Dhalla joined the prestigious Humanitas Prize organization which recognizes excellence in TV and Film scripts.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

“O Dhananjaya (conqueror), I bless you, my dear friend. There is none equal to you in the three worlds, as you know my secret. O Arjuna, you will curse me if you talk to anyone about the secret which you wanted to know and have experienced.”

-Krishna to Arjuna
Padma Purana (ca. 12th century)

“The one and only wife should with internalized belief and total absorption, hold her husband as a God.”

-Kama Sutra (2nd Century B.C)

Desire is incapable of hypocrisy. The thought broke through Rahul Kapoor's mind as he prepared to tell his first lie of the day. Sitting at his desk, Rahul stared at the framed picture of his wife and son, their laughter trapped beneath glass. His finger ran over the surface and he touched them, almost feeling the planes and curves of Pooja’s beautiful face, the softness of her pink chiffon sari, Ajay's weathered leather jacket.

We can force ourselves to tolerate certain people, to acclimate to a job we detest, and for a while, even rein ourselves in with logic and common sense, he thought. But we are truly helpless against the heart and its obdurate desires.

Rahul’s finger trailed off the pane of glass, leaving behind an oily smudge. He looked at his watch. It was three-thirty in the afternoon. If he left now, he could beat the evening traffic. He stood up and absentmindedly packed his leather briefcase, threw on a navy blue suit jacket and called his assistant Amelia, sitting on the other side of the busy bank office, surrounded by her coterie of little stuffed toys.
He made his excuses about visiting important clients, about being unable to make it back in time due to traffic and she, in her typical, obsequious manner, assured him that everything was under control. Los Angeles, after all, was not kind to wayfarers or commuters.

Clutching his briefcase, Rahul left his corner glass office and cut across the lobby to pick up a few sales brochures for effect. A queue of impatient clients paying credit card and mortgage bills, making deposits, or just withdrawing money because they were untrusting of the ATM machine looked at him expectantly. He ignored them. He was a man in love, removed from the mundane. Rahul said his perfunctory goodbyes to a few employees, one of them too busy to notice, and made for the door like a convict for whom the prison gates had miraculously opened in the middle of the night.

As his Mercedes sped down the 405 freeway, the lane markers morphing into a solid line, Rahul thought about how naïve he had been in thinking he could wrestle with his urges, simply vaporize them. In the end, years of deprivation had only served to nurture them.

Before long, Rahul approached an army of red lights, and a wave of sickness washed over him. The solid white line broke down into halting dashes again. He came to a complete stop, felt the acid drip in his stomach. Walled behind a massive white truck, there was no telling what lay ahead. He was going to be late.

Rahul was not a cruel man. His disbelief in a higher power – in karmic retribution – did not make him apathetic to the pain of others. But entrenched in the heat of traffic, Rahul couldn’t help wishing that someone else also suffered. For this to cost him another second of delay there had better be damage, significant devastation, a bonfire of metal and flesh, not just some calm CHP officer completing a speeding ticket and throwing already paranoid drivers into apoplexy.

The heat surged. The digital temperature display on his dashboard reached the nineties and the gasoline indicator lit up. He restrained himself from cranking up the air-conditioner. He loosened the noose – a deep burgundy silk tie, clustered with wisps of turquoise paisleys that his wife had given him some years ago to celebrate a raise – and let it hang limply around his wet neck, granting him permission to unbutton the starched cotton shirt. His son thought the tie unfashionably ornate and Rahul often joked that one day he would pass it on to him as an heirloom.

The remnants of his Jaipur aftershave mingled with his sweat and produced the kind of pheromonal aroma that he knew would elicit excitement when he finally got there. The thought of it made him sweat even more. He rolled down the window and warm air barged in with the cacophony of traffic. Rahul’s eyes glazed behind his sunglasses, as they often did when the world around became too harsh and the visual had to be blurred momentarily: a kind of expeditious meditation. Then Rahul could hear the deep, throaty laughter, feel the gnawing of teeth on his stubbly chin, see bare limbs and torsos undulating in pure white sheets. And for some inexplicable reason he heard the faint crackling of electrical wires overhead.

He reached out for the telephone headset but the cord was tangled on the parking brake. His frustrated tugs only strengthened its hold. Calm down, calm down, he urged himself. You’re making matters worse. He uncoiled the cord gently, reminding himself to breathe evenly. An elongated press of “9” on his cell phone transported him to his destination. If only I could fly over all this. Leap over it all and be there with you. The answering machine came on, and then that voice filled his ear and made his heart jump. Rahul knew that preparations were being made – Tuberoses being placed to crane out of vases to perfume the air; pungent powders in shades of earth and vermillion were being portioned out into bubbling pots of food; music being selected to set the mood, to score the soft moans of pleasure and grateful cries of release; and a volume of Rumi was being placed on the nightstand to celebrate the afterglow.

“I’m on my way. I’m coming. I’ll be there soon,” he said. And then even after he had disconnected, he continued to say it to himself in a whisper, like a mantra, a reassurance that his life was waiting for him on the other side.

The barricade gave way. One by one, without rhyme or reason, the red lights of forbiddance were snuffed out and the cars began, almost with a moan of relief, to lurch forward. Rahul took a deep but shaky breath and stepped on the gas.

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  • Posted September 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Searingly Powerful Novel

    Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla houses magic in his eyes, or in his hands or in his brain. This young writer, born in Mombasa, Kenya, understands his Indian culture and how to imbue the scents and flavors and passions and traditions of that culture into a contemporary novel that not only brings the reader to the appreciation of all that, but also tackles universal issues such as the cauterizing brand of familial roots, the many forms of love, infidelity, dysfunctional father/son relationships, aspects of Hindu and Muslim beliefs, and the cycle of life - and of death. He writes with such fluid prose that each page approaches a lapse into poetry. Not only is his story one which defies the reader to pause before the complex story plays out, but it also informs us of the myriad aspects of immigration and the sense of being dispossessed. In short this is a compelling novel that not only grows into our psyche but also quietly changes the way we perceive the injustices around us. Rahul and Pooja Kapoor fled their home in Kenya (there is a separate section in the book that explains their extirpation) and settled in Los Angeles where they had a son Ajay and Rahul became a banker. Pooja happily accepted her role as wife and mother and in reproducing the culinary finery of Indian cuisine both at home and for a restaurant/shop, The Banyan. run by her dear friend Charlie and his runner Greg who prefers to be called Parmesh due his desire to be of Indian rather than Jewish heritage. The story begins some years after their arrival when Ajay has become a healthy hunk of a lad looking for a college. Rahul has grown distant - his relationship with Ajay borders on formal and his attention to his beautiful wife's needs has waned. Pooja yearns for the sensuality of the early days of their marriage but finds solace in looking after her handsome son, her cooking, and her friend Sonali - a flamboyant neighbor friend who loves to gossip. Rahul is an atheist and has divorced himself from his past. He bears a strange inner longing that surfaces in a bookstore when he makes eye contact with a handsome storekeeper Atif, a Muslim from Mumbai who seems comfortable with his life: Atif is the age of Rahul's son Ajay. The look is returned and shortly the two men discover their sensual feelings and begin an affair. Rahul attempts to keep both sides of his emotional life alive - he is still devoted to Pooja and Ajay but for the first time since a tragic childhood experience he is in touch with his sexuality. Pooja notes the growing distance between them but it is not until Sonali spies on Rahul and Atif in embrace that Pooja must face the fact that her husband has found love with a man. The manner in which Pooja and Rahul cope with the change winds into an ending that is profoundly surprising. One of the many gifts of Dhalla is his comfortable manipulation of Hindu words and customs and aromas and traditions: he weaves a multifaceted mandala that teaches the readers so much about Indian culture. He also surveys many of the beliefs and myths of Hinduism that offer explanations of human behavior, including sexuality, that is very well considered and informative. His dialogue is peppered with influences from Muslim thought (from Atif) and Hindu thought (from Pooja): it is also smoothly sophisticated in construction in a way that makes his very sensual love scenes excitingly poetic and credible. There is so much in this novel to mesmerize the reader that words in a review falter.

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