The Two Krishnas

The Two Krishnas

by Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla



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)

About 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.

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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The Two Krishnas 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
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.