While reviewing Dr Sweety’s debut novel, Arjun: Without A Doubt, I was enthralled by her manner of story-telling. With her unique style, she presented the well-known story of The Mahabharata while showing a predilection for the protagonist here, the third Pandava, Arjun. However, she completely has deviated from the epic storyline in her new publication, Rage of the Maggots, which falls in the genre of medical drama.
The book has three short stories, each has completely different characters and backdrops. Yet, somewhere they are inter-connected, as they deal with enigmatic human psychē in myriad forms. In all of them, the characters belong to worlds, which are not-so-often explored and explained, and the stories have strong women protagonists. The author, being a doctor herself, has unveiled the medical world constructing stories from the base reality.
The first story, “Blood” opens as Taj, a handsome man, arrives at a government hospital to donate blood. Apparently, a naive and kind person, as the story progresses, the character of Taj becomes complicated and reaches the pinnacle when we discover the actual reason for his constrained relationship with his wife, Shabnam, who was once abducted by the military officials in the valley of Kashmir. The burning issues of Kashmir have been highlighted in “Blood” and, though the author hasn’t delved much deeper into them, it’s enough to give a chill down the spine. More so, as we realise, that it’s not only fictional but the reality is more brutal. However, the open-ended story has a few loose ends; the case of Captain Shalv remains a mystery, Dr Pankhudi’s fantasy doesn’t materialize into anything (there is a subtle hint in the end, though) and Shabnam’s story ends abruptly. As if, from the standpoint of a reader, the story demands a sequel. It’s not that I’m not much inclined to open-ended stories, I rather enjoy the trail they leave behind to feed our imagination, but here, I wanted to ‘know’ a tad more.
Of the three, I liked the second one most, which begins with—-
“Dhondu deeply regretted the fact that he did not possess a uterus. U-te-rus. He was not fond of the word ‘womb’. It rhymed too well with tomb.”
The unique beginning engages the reader at once. Moreover, “Emperor Dhondu” deals with a subject that seldom has been chosen as the theme by Indian writers. That a man can thrive and prosper due to the sole reason that he has a disease that is a rarity, may sound hilarious, but it also reveals the complex nature of the society we live in. Besides, the controversial issue of surrogacy and its socio-economic effects are also brought in. And, why an ill, vision-affected, colour-blind taxi-driver has been called an emperor? You’ve to reach the climax to find the answer!
The last story, “Nude” is Dr Vic’s life as he takes a detour in flashbacks while the body of another doctor, Jui, lies in front of him on the autopsy table. Vic or Vikramaditya never wanted to be a doctor. But, he had to take admission and, when he was slowly finding the mysterious world of veins, muscles, nerves and cells appealing enough, things went topsy-turvy due to Jui and Gray’s Anatomy Page 1353! That changed Vic’s way of life forever and, he became a “consultant of the deads”.
The story keeps its steady pace all through.
As I said, all the stories portray strong female characters. The author neither has preached feminism, nor she has written a diatribe against gender bias. Still, the subliminal message is there and, I appreciate that subtlety of her pen. The cover of the book, I think, could be better.
The book comes as a whiff of evening breeze in the midst of mushy romance or lame thrillers. If you, like me, are tired of the run-of-the-mill publications, go for Rage of the Maggots.
My Rating: 4/5
About The Author
The heart can be bread loafed, the brain can be peeled open, but mysteries of the mind remain unravelled. Dr Shinde Sweety (M.D, Pathology). When not peering through a microscope, she loves to swim, day-dream, sketch, do yoga, and learn new tongues – currently dabbling in Spanish & Sanskrit.
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