An exclusive excerpt from Bride of the Forest: The Untold Story of Yayati’s Daughter by Madhavi S. Mahadevan. Published by Speaking Tiger Books, 2020.
The forest was already a lush, tangled dream. In the runny light of dawn what appeared surreal to the girl’s eyes was the city of Pratisthan—the yellow of its brick walls, the disarray of its streets. The citizens were still abed. The network of narrow, paved alleyways was silent but for the sighs from the night just spent. However, the smells lingered and gossiped of the frenzied drinking and dancing, of clandestine desires and sated hungers, of enticement, seduction and indulgence. In the street of the courtesans, bruised garlands of marigold and jasmine drifted in sluggish drains. A tambourine lay in a pool of vomit. At the city’s intersections stood enormous clay lamps that had burned bright all night, but now held curls of blackened wicks, like stillborn worms. The only signs of life were the lean, brown stray dogs scavenging through animal innards and fishbones.