Publication Date: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
Genres: Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Part of Series? No
Goodreads Blurb: When Tulsi first meets Madhav, she is irrevocably drawn to his chiselled good looks and charm. Although wary of his many dalliances and the string of broken hearts left in his wake, she is surprised by the intense desire that Madhav arouses in her. And before long, she forsakes her family, her prospective career, her fiancé—all for the love of this inscrutable man. But love can be like poison. And nothing can prepare Tulsi for the heartache and betrayal that lie ahead.
Years later, Tulsi escapes to the ancient city of Vrindavan, seeking redemption amidst the cries and prayers of its anguished widows. However, when her past catches up with her, old wounds resurface with dramatic consequences.
By turns savage and tender, The Poison of Love is a spellbinding tale of love and sacrifice, pain and retribution, confirming K.R. Meera as one of our most fearless and accomplished writers.
Introduction and plot
First of all, tell me what have you thought when you read the title? Creepy, mysterious, haunting? This is what I felt exactly after finishing this novella. I have to admit something here – I have never felt so terrified reading any book like I felt during reading this, although it’s not a horror book. Can you believe this? This book was so creepy and haunting that I literally had goosebumps just after I finished the FIRST page. But I think this is the thing which makes it unique. The main motive was, I think, to make the readers understand how the love can make you blind and can force you to make the choices which you would have never made otherwise.
Tulsi is the main protagonist of this book and the story starts in Vrindavan where she is a Meera sadhu now. The story then continues in flashbacks, switching between past and present. When Tulsi was young, she was a talented woman who had a bright career ahead of her and was about to marry her fiance. But then there was Madhav to whom she was strongly attracted and thus leaves her fiance and marries Madhav.
Madhav had 27 girlfriends in past and Tulsi was his 28th. Still, Tulsi believed him and dedicates herself towards his charms and sweet talking. But soon she comes out of her fairy tale and realized that the things were not what they appeared. She makes various horrific choices in the way and finally lands to Vrindavan as shaven-headed Meera Sadhu. A very sick but apparently repentant Madhav then traced her to Vrindavan and was desperate for an audience. Tulsi was still shocked to see that she was still attracted towards him after all the mishappenings. She finally met an end that was hard to believe.
Love is something which is widely used everywhere and in every context. It can itself become intense if it goes after a limit. K.R. Meera has effectively started this book with these lines:
Love is like milk. With the passage of time, it sours, splits and becomes poison.
The starting line itself gives a creepy feeling. Though Tulsi was a bright student, she leaves behind a broken family and a promising career to embarks on a life that she never expected, just because she was too blindly in love with Madhav. Even after 8 years of her misery and finally ending up in Vrindavan as Meera sadhu, she was not able to detach herself from her feeling about Madhav and the repulsion that she carried out for him, though she resented him.
I will love that man. With bitter resentment, I will love him. In my hollow heart, I shall safeguard that beat of revenge to ensure his destruction. I shall emit the agony of bones falling of. I will haunt him until death — and beyond. When he attempts to kiss another woman, he shall be smashed to smithereens.
Interesting thing is, the name of her husband is another name for Lord Krishna, and like Krishna, Madhav was invested in the love of many women too. Krishna had the charm to attract women and so does Madhav. He wooed her and made her believe to broke her engagement and go with him.
Love has one fault, Tulsi. If you let go, it will fall. It will shatter on the ground. You should not let go.
Madhav had the inability to say no to love, similar to Krishna. He was a serial-cheater (if that’s even a word?). The similarities between Madhav and his “divine” namesake, made me think that how our mythology was twisted in a way that it also gave wrong meanings if considered clearly. They can be nightmares in today’s world. Both Radha and Meera fall to the same faith, because of the love of a single man. K.R. Meera has clearly depicted how that can be fatal in today’s modern world. When Madhav told Tulsi about his 27 previous girlfriends, he had flawless logic to romanticise his affairs:
“I shall never refuse any woman’s love. It would devastate her. If my love can make a woman happy, why would I want to deny her? You do not understand, Tulsi. They were all unhappy. They had never been loved. They had been denied love by fathers, husbands or sweethearts. I offered them my love as alms. This body of mine will be eaten up by ants and worms one day. If it can be of use to another human being, why should I refuse? But be clear about this — I never desired any of them.”
This was my first book by K.R. Meera. I was not familiar with her writing style that’s why I was little shocked by the narrative and description. Tulsi’s relationship with Madhav was extremely twisted and destructive. Her state of mind was perfectly described by the author which made it equally engrossing and disturbing. The author has clearly made the line between love and hatred by moving back and forth between Tulsi’s present (in Vrindavan) and her past while building up to a chilling end.
My love is like a serpent that has swallowed its own tail. It twisted around in circles, trying to consume itself. The hunger never abated. The mouth never became free.
A unique thing in this book was the description of corpse-eating ants which perfectly stitched parts of the story together. Tulsi used to have dreams about ants and then she also saw them in Vrindavan where she used to live. She associates them with death. She was so hurtful and mad in love that she was self-destructive.
“I needed wounds. To hurt myself more grievously, I needed more wounds.”
Before each chapter, there is a black page with an image of ants. As each chapter progresses, the number of ants increases and that leaves a strong mark on readers mind. But there is no redemption for either Tulsi or Madhav.
Besides all the things, there is no redemption for either Tulsi or Madhav. Tulsi experiences moments of truly vicious happiness when she manages to bring pain to Madhav. She was determined to make him miserable. When ill Madhav reached to Vrindavan, she felt immense pleasure by seeing him in that state. It is only towards the end that Tulsi really understands him:
“Madhav, you are like Krishna, aren’t you? Love Incarnate? Like the Krishna of Vrindavan, are you not a slave to love and devotion?”
This novella has been written in the first person and goes back and forth in time. Due to this, sometimes it was difficult to understand the exact plot. Except this, it was dramatic and realistic with all the feelings.The novel ends on a dark note, as it had begun. K.R. Meera keeps a firm grip on her words. The feel on every page is that of the scraping of raw skin and horrified. Towards the end, you can’t actually make sympathy on either of the characters as both were bad on their own parts. This book leaves you with pain, anger, resentment, and sadness and I think this is the main thing that author wants to deliver.
What I Liked
- K.R. Meera’s writing
- The intensity of the read and well-crafted narration
- Highlighting similarities between Krishna and Madhav
What I Didn’t Like
- Constantly switching of the narration back and forth
The Poison of Love is an intense and dramatic novel which clearly explains what a corrosive love can do. It is not an easy book to read and I would certainly not recommend it if you are in a mood for a light read. It is a strange story of emotion and betrayal which turns out to be dark. For many of the readers, this is a one-sitting read. It gives you mixed feelings where at one point you can find yourself devouring the characters while on another page you find yourself completely horrified.
The Poison Of Love by K.R. Meera is an intense and dramatic read depicting what a corrosive love can do. A horrific tale of love and hatred.
Would Recommend To
- Readers who like to read diverse reads and translated work
- who like to read some intense work
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Have you read this book? What do you think about this? Do you read translated work? If yes, which one is your favourite?