I bought this book sitting at Mumbai airport waiting for my flight back to Nairobi and I’m so sure if I wasn’t so exhausted from partying the night before I’d have probably finished the book by the time I landed back in Nairobi.
Mistress is a story that’s set in Kerala, which is in South India, at a riverside resort. Christopher Stewart is a travel writer (not the Lonely Planet Guide type!) and he has come to Kerala to interview Koman who was once a very famous kathakali dancer. Kathakali is a classical Indian dance that involves drama and is also recognised easily because the characters’ make up is very attractive and they have elaborate costumes too. The dance has detailed gestures and really well defined body movements. For me, it’s the green painted faces with the expressive eye make-up that helps me recognise the kathakali dancers.
Radha is Koman’s niece and from their first meeting, both Radha and Koman are drawn to Christopher, his cello and his thirst to know more about the past. Shyam is Radha’s husband and very soon he gets excluded from this triangle and can only helplessly watch as he sees a passion in her he has never experienced. Koman can see all this unfolding before his wise, worldly eyes, while he goes on telling Chris the rather complex and complicated details of the sacrifices he has had to make for the sake of his art.
Anita Nair explains beautifully the intricacies of the dance while telling the story of Radha and Christopher with Shyam standing in the shadows watching helplessly, and Koman narrates the story of his life. The passion and desire can be felt very strongly as you turn each page.
The Mistress is an excellent read and the pace doesn’t slow down at any point to make you feel it’s dragging or getting boring.