After “Teen Varsha“, this was the novel I have read of Bhagwaticharan Varma. The idea of the theme chosen for novel appealed to me.
The novel is set-up in the ancient India of the time of Chandragupta Maurya. Woven with other threads, the main one for the novel is the story of two students of Rishi Ratnambhara, who want to find out what the Pap (Sin) is. The rishi says that he can not give them the answer, since he has himself not been able to decide on this issue. Instead, they should go out in the world and find out for themselves as to what it is. He, then, leaves each one of them with one of his former students. One was left with a Samant, who lived the life of luxury. The other one was left with a Yogi, who thought that the real pleasure is in Viraga (having no affinity for worldly objects). Then, the novel moves around what they see in next one year and how the lives of the two people they had been left with interact with each other’s. The heroine, Chitralekha, plays a crucial role in taking the story forward and hence the name of the novel, I guess. At the end of it, the two have different (opposite) notions of who the Papi (sinner) was.
The idea was to show that our judgement of right and wrong is derived from the context and circumstances we have been put into. The idea, as I said, appeals to me. However, there is a crucial failure in the novel. The novel would have made its point only if at the end the reader was left in a state of indecision regarding the right answer. That does not happen. The way the story has proceeded, the reader is clearly biased in favour of one of the characters and against the other. So, despite having taken up a nice theme and woven an interesting story around it, I think the novel fails at very critical aspect.