SURICHI Mohan’s debut novel, in her own words, tries “to create the beauty of North Indian or Hindustani classical music through words.” She locates its main action in a music college in Lucknow where guru-shisya tradition in the person of Kirana Sahib, married with children, and his young pupil Sarika, who is in her teens, is dramatised in its fullness. They meet regularly in a classroom where Kirana talks about the intricacies of classical music and demonstrates these by his singing.
Sarika respects Kirana and he appreciates her musical talent. Because he knows that she can make him known, he teaches her also at her home, and encourages her to sing in public functions. After some time, they become lovers. When Sarika becomes pregnant, her parents get her pregnancy terminated in utmost secrecy. Her story follows the course that had been told to her by a senior classmate: “They (men in the world of music) disarm you with their caring and then disrobe you. Once they have used you, they throw you away like a fly that has accidentally fallen into a glass of milk…. Our society is very harsh to its women.”
The novel weaves many other stories into this main plot for reasons that are not clear: of another student of the college Swati, who falls prey to the lustful ways of Mr Sinha, and ends up committing suicide; of Sinha’s daughter, who is stopped by her parents from marrying a boy of her choice because he is not rich; of Sarika’s cousin, who bows to the wishes of her parents and marries a boy chosen by them; and of Sinha’s shady business that lands him in prison. We also learn that Sarika’s mother too had to go through a painful experience, almost similar to her daughter’s, before her marriage.
Divine Music is thus much more than a novel about the world of music. It also shows how individual dreams and choices are constantly thwarted by social and cultural pressures.
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