Sangeeta Bandhyopadhyay’s The Yogini recreates the concept of a ‘Fate’ through Homi-a modern woman who believes in the importance of actions and a lustful yogi who derails Homi’s life in order to bring her to the center of a bigger conspiracy.
Homi, a passionate and hard-working journalist, and a loving wife to a compassionate and kind man, is confronted by a Yogi one night. This mysterious man with lustful eyes, a handsome face and matted hair tells her that it is he who is her fate. He is only visible to Homi and follows her around, the sight of him being strangely arousing to Homi and this active presence sends Homi’s life to a downward spiral. As she desperately tries to take back control of her life through her actions and implementation of free will, she finds herself guided by fate to strange places and do things she wouldn’t normally do. Eventually, she finds herself in Benaras with no recollection whatsoever of how she reached there or her purpose.
‘The Yogini’ is atmospheric and engrossing. Despite the misleading blurb, the story takes some sharp and unexpected turns. I was particularly impressed by how flawed and gritty Homi’s character was and as readers, we were left to anticipate how it all unfolded. Homi is a strong and opinionated person, raised in a household with parents detached from their mutual responsibility of raising a child. The author’s understanding of the nuances of a dysfunctional family that exists beneath flawless exteriors and over-enthusiastic members has been brought forward through her writing. Homi is resilient and rebellious in her pursuit to prove her firm control over her life. Her fall from grace is smooth and maddening, complimenting the suspense that was being built during the first half of the book.
Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay also cements the concept of fate in our minds, making us trust us despite the practical approach we tend to use in our day to day life. Arunava Sinha’s translation is flawless as usual, but there were certain bits I hoped were translated better. Since Bangali is my mother tongue, I could imagine how much more dramatic and atmospheric certain passages would have sounded in Bengali.
‘The Yogini’ is engrossing, outlandish and worthwhile, but also not everyone’s cup of tea. This is a book you would like if you’ve enjoyed books based on themes such as an all-consuming madness or love.
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
With her days split between a passionate marriage and a high-octane television studio job, Homi is a thoroughly modern young woman-until one day she is approached by a yogi on the street. This mysterious figure begins to follow her everywhere, visible only to Homi, who finds him both frightening and inexplicably arousing.
Convinced that the yogi is a manifestation of fate, Homi embarks on a series of increasingly desperate attempts to prove that her life is ruled by her own free will, much to the alarm of her no-nonsense husband and cattily snobbish mother. Her middle-class Kolkata life, and the relationships that define her identity, are disturbed to the point of disintegration.
Following the inexorable pull of tradition, the mystic forces that run beneath the shallow surface of our modern existence like red earth beneath the pavements, Homi ends up in Benaras, the holy city on the banks of the Ganga, where her final battle with fate plays out.