Countless stories have been written about love ending on a note of happily ever-afters. But the most famous ones are those that talk about love so selfless that it could extinguish the life force of our soul. Dharamvir Bharati’s Gunahon Ka Devta is one such story that revolves around the selfless, unexpressed love of two people, Chander and Sudha. Published in 1949, the book wove a tale around purity, self-sacrifice and self-effacing guilt. Considered as one of the best novels in Hindi, Gunahon Ka Devta was seen as the first of its kind owing to its nature of courting tabooed subjects such as sexuality, caste and religious discrimination. And yet, despite all such accolades, the novel did not have a translated version until recently. The translated version of Gunahon Ka Devta, titled Chander and Sudha, which hit the stands last week, does much justice to its original. Set in the pre-Independence era of India, the dramatic tale burgeons in the small town of Allahabad. In a line, the story could be surmised as a sacrificial act between two lovers struggling to express themselves.
While the structure of the narrative of Chander and Sudha leans towards convoluted plot mechanisms, the ability of the writer in positing themes such as love, lust, misogyny and societal obligations cannot be ignored. Additionally, the discussion of contemporary issues in the book with relation to caste and religion also makes the book a vital read. Interestingly, it is the writer’s attempt at debating the prevalence of love in all its conventional and fundamental perceptions through redefinition vis-à-vis various characters that makes the book tremendous in terms of its appeal. For instance, an important facet of the narrative around Chander and Sudha is its inherent quality in espousing the connection between sexual desire and love. “Even the breeze has fallen silent, every fragment glows in its part with life. You could not become someone’s, my love, nor could someone yours by far. The tides could not be yours, I say, and the storms too drifted afar.” When the character of Chander was heartbroken after Sudha’s marriage to Kailash, he had found solace in succumbing to carnal desires. However, instead of passing effortlessly through the transition, Chander struggles with self-hatred as he grapples with notions of lust and love.
In terms of prose, Chander and Sudha let the reader glide effortlessly. It also inculcates much of the feeling encompassed in its original. For instance, “He was one of those people who appear easy-going and light-hearted on the outside but in fact are serious, focussed and goal-oriented. A character trait of such people is that no matter how they appear in public, they are totally committed to their inner truth. To the world at large, they may come across as indifferent and frivolous but when it comes to their goals, they are serious and hard-working,” painted a befitting character sketch for Chander.
Priced at Rs 499, Chander and Sudha, is meant for all those souls who have an eye for unconventional love stories. Running into 349 pages, the translated version of the story stands successful in bringing out the essence of Bharati’s story in Hindi.