Book Excerpt: Mohini by Anuja Chandramouli
A glimpse from Anuja Chandramouli’s Mohini – The Enchantress (Published by Rupa Publications India, 2020)
Prelude: A Hint of Hope Borne on a Dream
The storytellers tended to go into raptures describing her sublime, flawless beauty, waxing eloquent about the perfection of her form and features, not to mention the heaviness of her bosom, supported as it was by an impossibly narrow waist. Captivating eyes with so much depth that most wanted nothing better than to plunge into those twin orbs, exploring the secrets within for the rest of time; lustrous tresses that cascaded in waves of silk, nearly caressing the earth over which she glided with effortless grace; luscious lips that mischievously promised endless delights and so on and so forth.
Though they were mostly males who could not or did not want to look beyond the sumptuous perfection of her physical attributes, none of it was an exaggeration. For she was bewitching and her beauty had a power of its own, which could simply not be discounted. And yet, when it came right down to it, her beauty was almost beside the point.
Ultimately, it was all the things she stood for that really mattered. The tantalizing things she freely offered, all the things that were desired with varying degrees of desperate need and unlimited greed. And unlike what the perverse always assumed, it was not even carnal pleasure, even though a sumptuous smorgasbord of sensual delights was readily available. Mostly it was a whole host of insipid little things that offered transient pleasures and were sought and indulged in repeatedly to the point where they distracted the mind from all else and consumed it in its entirety. She was not surprised that people chose this fulfilling yet ultimately empty state of being over the blandness of nirvana and the promise of eternal tranquility.
Secure in the knowledge that she would always be chosen, and elusive as a fragment of a beloved dream, she slipped in and out of the consciousness of the fortunate ones who had been either arbitrarily chosen or were part of the intricate cosmic design. These willingly allowed themselves to be bedevilled, consumed by a passion that would not be denied, existing only to serve her will, content to be moulded to suit the purposes of the most enchanting being in all of creation.
Mohini. Mohini. Mohini. They breathed her name. Chanted it like a fervent prayer. Anxious to lose themselves in her, till they were delirious with sheer joy, consumed by a madness from which they never wished to be cured. Who could blame them? A euphoric state of endless intoxication wasn’t the worst way to eke out an existence.
The females among the mortals and immortals alike were far less enamoured, although they weren’t impervious to her charms either. They muttered darkly about demon magic and shameless hussies who led honest men astray with the promise of unlimited debauchery and sordid shenanigans. Drawing the menfolk into a sticky web of deceit, draining them slowly of their very life essence, till they were little more than desiccated husks who had the vital juices sucked out of their orifices. Reducing the best of men to mindless morons and drooling imbeciles who crawled and debased themselves in the hope of being at the receiving end of a bewitching smile.
In their innermost hearts though, they too wanted to be seduced. Released from the shackles of humdrum virtue so they too could roam where their dreams led them, wild as the wind, blithe and free-spirited. At liberty to sip the nectar of all things delectable, to carouse endlessly in an orgiastic rush of pleasure, swirling in a whirlpool of heady passion. Far away from the senseless spite of conventional morality. Just so they could be as happy as they could be. As happy as she always seemed to be.
Mohini of the unfettered and eternally buoyant spirit, floated alone, far removed from the relentless waves of powerful emotions that surged about her in an endless rush, impervious to the desperate desire and toxic hate that motivated those who sought to draw closer to her, obsessively driven to attempt the impossible task of possessing her.
The Supreme Goddess had warned the Divine Protector about this. And her by extension, of course. Not that she had been concerned then or was now.
‘Mohini is incapable of love…’ Shakti had informed her old friend.
‘How is that a bad thing? She will forever be free from the bondage and tyrannies of the said emotion, the vulnerability and revolting mess that infinite tenderness leaves in its wake as well as the degradation that complete surrender demands.’ Vishnu was unperturbed.
‘I know…’ she replied thoughtfully, ‘but even so, it is a pity.’ ‘Well, she is your creation as much as mine,’ he pointed out helpfully. ‘Perhaps, even more so.’
She nodded again, ‘It used to bother me that you do everything you need to with a detachment that sometimes feels so cold- blooded, almost fiendish. Which is why I suggested the need for Mohini. I was hoping that she would be more emotionally invested in her charges. But she is the same old you in a ravishing new form. ’You need not sound so disappointed,’ he said reprovingly. ‘She would be hurt if she were capable of feeling the emotion. Besides, though she was born of my own self, the enchantress possesses the quality of autonomy that is her own. As for the ravishing form, she was made in your image and that is my tribute to you.’
She rolled her eyes at that. What was it with the male of the species and their ridiculous preoccupation with beauty? The females were only marginally better, devoting their limited existence solely to primping, preening and perpetually preoccupying themselves with enhancing their looks, almost as if they needed beauty to be the crowning achievement of their sordid lives, soiled as it was by this commitment to superficiality.
Shakti shook her head in disgust. ‘It bothers me that no one can see past her beauty… And I didn’t say I was disappointed in her, merely sorry that she herself doesn’t get to partake of the gifts she has to offer. It is a tad unfortunate that she is immune not only to the treacherous undercurrents of the tender emotions but also to the more rewarding aspects.’
The Goddess appeared thoughtful, ‘The Enchantress is needed. She always will be, particularly as the age grows dark with trouble and strife, brought on by a steady erosion of faith and the gradual dissolution of devotion. In the beginning you had an easier time of it in your role as the Protector. There was a definite pattern—a tyrant or a good soul would accrue more than their fair share of power, deprive the King of heaven of what he feels entitled to, and upset the natural order of things.
Curses and boons would do their share of the damage of course, and consequently there would be mighty duels fought and epic upheavals. Then you would bestir yourself from your prolonged slumber so that engorged beasts of the aquatic, porcine or ferociously predatory variety may emerge from your being to restore things to the way they were. Ironically, it was your obsession with keeping things on an even keel that led to the loss of balance and a sense of proportion. You made it look easy and when the mortals and immortals discovered that a path of moderation was the hardest one to take, they stopped trying.’
Excerpted with permission from Mohini- The Enchantress by Anuja Chandramouli . Published by Rupa Publications India, (2020)
About the Author
Anuja Chandramouli is a bestselling Indian author and New Age Indian classicist. Her highly acclaimed debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, was named by Amazon India as one of the top five books in the Indian-writing category for 2013. Kamadeva: The God of Desire and Shakti: The Divine Feminine and Yama’s Lieutenant are her other bestsellers.
Anuja’s articles, short stories and book reviews have appeared in various publications like Femina, Women’s Era, Lonely Planet, The Hindu and the New Indian Express. An accomplished orator, Chandramouli regularly conducts storytelling sessions and workshops on creative writing, empowerment and mythology in schools, colleges and on various other platforms.
This happily married mother of two little girls lives in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, and is a student of classical dance. She is currently hard at work on her new book along, aided along by her two trustworthy friends: caffeine and yoga.