DEVI is central to the novel Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandana. Located in the beautiful Coorg region, the plot revolves around Devi’s unflinching love for Machu, the killer of tigers, and the cruel circumstances that force her into marriage with Devanna, the boy she grew up with. Devanna almost worships Devi, but does not get her love. They have a son Nanju. Machu marries a beautiful girl and has a son Appu. When Machu joins the army and dies in the frontier, Devi brings up Appu as his mother too dies. She shows obvious partiality to Appu at the cost of Nanju, who leaves the home in a huff. Appu turns out to be a wayward.
The novel hinges on the determination and stubbornness of Devi, who is unwilling to forgive Devanna for forcing the marriage on her. Machu remains her man always. Devanna, partially paralysed from an attempted suicide goes through life as a penance for the sin he committed in forcing Devi’s hand. Do they all reconcile to their fates? Does Devi ever forgive Devanna, after knowing his side of the story? The answers are held in the last pages, compelling the reader to go through till the end. It is definitely a fine debut novel from the author, a private equity professional. The customs, rituals and beliefs of Coorg come alive in the portrayal.
(Penguin Books, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017)