A pleasant kind of heavy and other erotic stories by Aranyani (pseudonym) is one of the most modern erotic offerings to emerge from the subcontinent. Written from the perspective of a woman, these nine erotic short stories are elegant and prosaic as the protagonists challenge the outdated views of the Indian feminine sexuality and push their own — and other people’s boundaries.
Desire is limitless, and that is the underlying theme of the entire book because every story features a character who is different from the others that precede it. Age, class, location — everything varies, and the characters range from an artist who has a wild affair with her Russian neighbour to a pregnant woman who discovers and eventually submits herself to new exquisite cravings.
This book is about an ordinary (however you want to interpret that word) Indian woman, and that is one of the things I loved the most about it — the sensation that I could have been reading about any one of my acquaintances. It takes a talented storyteller to do that.
The one thing that all Aranyani’s characters have in common is that they are strong and female characters with a very clear idea of what they want, and they have no qualms on getting it. I loved the strong feminist undercurrents of every story, although the irony of a feminist writer is writing erotica in India and choosing to write under a pseudonym which is not lost on me.
However, a voice like Aranyani’s is very important in India, as it is important to challenge sexual repression and champion personal expression: “I am not the only one”. When the book was first published, Khushwant Singh publicly praised her book, calling it ‘more erotic than the Kamasutra’.
Erotic literature is still a niche publishing area in India and Aranyani understands why sex makes us uncomfortable, although it is still important to push back against the discomforts. In an email interview with DNA India she said, “The erotic is uncomfortable because it pushes our boundaries, makes us confront who we are and what we desire at a level that can be alarming.”
The importance of novels like this cannot be exaggerated, and the same can be said of shattering stereotypes, and championing female sexuality. This novel does both, and does it so beautifully. If you don’t own it already, I would recommend it for a scintillating weekend read. I rate it 3.5 stars out of 5.