Woman Tantrik, abuse and Delhi’s underbelly | Taneja’s new detective novel

In December last year, a weird news appeared in Newspapers and TV Channels in North India. A man cut off the genitals of a four year old boy, and ate them. When later arrested, he told the police that a Tantrik (a sorcerer or shaman or wizard or witch. Someone who claims or is believed to have magic powers) suggested it to him as a cure of his impotency. Most people who read the news not only felt sad for the little boy; they also felt a deep rage against the tantrik. And for obvious reasons. The incident proved a thing: Sorcery does exist in Indian society and there are people who believe in its potency, to the degree that they put their own brain to disuse; and start following anything some crook recommends.

Coming back to the sorcerer or tantra thing, a new book delving into the terrible, scary and horrific side of society, has tantra as its main thread. The book which is being billed as the country’s first tantra detective novel, is set in Delhi; or more aptly Delhi’s underbelly. The novel is titled Cult of Chaos and is by author-graphic novelist Shweta Taneja.

The novel’s protagonist is Anantya, a 23-year-old woman, who practices tantra. Anantya, smokes, wanders on Delhi roads at night, does uninhibited sex with creature of any kind, and gives damn to what others think of her. Anything she does is simply fueled by what Tantrik society prescribes her.

The author claims that she has done some serious research into tantrism and the forms in which it exists in contemporary India. From the very story line, and the protagonist, it appears that she has. Tantra, Occult, Shakta traditions do involve everything conventional religions frown upon. For instance sex is an eternal part of Tantra. A cult known as Kaul has uninhibited Sex as its main principle. That apart, instances of women leaving their households, husband, children to accompany some occult is not an uncommon incident in Indian villages. India has a rich trove of folklores, folktales and the rituals of sorcery in villages as well.

The novel has another side to it as well. The protagonist’s tantrik life is partly fueled by the abuse she has faced in her past. The trauma of which has made her uninhibited in her ways; to the extent that it’s her way of telling the women in the society to reclaim their lost place in society. A place, which can only be reclaimed by sheer fearlessness. Through the protagonist, the Bangalore based author, wants to touch the issue of women’s safety as well. The novel’s character Antya, has the fearlessness to roam on Delhi roads at night, face the violence that accompanies; and still having the adamancy to own the public places, that are equally owned by both men and women.

Overall the book appear interesting. This is Shweta Taneja’s fourth novel, after “The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong” and graphic novels “Krishna: Defender of Dharma” and “The Skull Rosary“.

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