A novella that deals with the complex issue of celibacy and teenaged monks among certain sections of the Indian American community has just been released for the global market on Amazon’s Kindle.
"Unsuitable Celibate: Mistaken Glory of Celibacy" written by Dr. Bharat Thakkar, a well-known reliability and quality control expert and highly regarded poet, critically examines religious and cultural conditioning which many teenaged boys have to endure. Although the novella’s plot is fictional, it has some significant elements drawn from Dr. Thakkar’s real life experiences.
"The core details of my novella’s plot does find inspiration from real life even though much of what I write in terms of religious indoctrination is an amalgamation of prevalent practices among the Indian American community which are not specific to any particular Hindu sect or religious order," Dr. Thakkar told IANS in an interview.
The explicit focus on the idea of celibacy is something Dr. Thakkar says he has closely observed for the past four decades, adding, "I have been struck by how forced the life of celibacy can be for teenaged novitiates who have not even fully begun to understand sex and sexuality."
The fictional plot revolves around Parthiv Patel, a young school graduate living with his parents in Sunnyvale, California, who has been subtly and not so subtly been raised to join a fictional religious order called Siddhi Prapti Sansthan and lead a life of a celibate monk.
"As the title suggests, it is my case that celibacy for a teenager is unsuitable and it’s much trumpeted glory mistaken. I think it is unnatural to condition an impressionable teenage mind to think he can give up on sexual urges at the instance of his parents and under pressure from a sect that is always in need of new recruits," Dr. Thakkar says.
In the introduction to the book, the author writes, "’Unsuitable Celibate’ at its heart is about choice. We all have a natural right to choose but oftentimes that natural right is diluted by the vagaries of life.
Having lived in America for close to 50 years, I am very much a part of the evolution of the Indian American community over a considerable period. Those decades have given me a good sense of a community living conflicted between two cultures, one they bring with them and the other they adopt here. However, there is a third crucial element to this and that is of the generations born here. They may have been born into culturally rooted Indian families but on their own, they are very much like mainstream Americans. Their conflicts and dilemmas are of a completely different nature.
My short novel is an exploration into these sociocultural pulls and pressures without being judgmental about them."The broad contour of the plot has the protagonist Parthiv grapple with lifelong conditioning over celibacy and monkhood even as his parents Ramnik and Dipti go through a mélange of uncertainties and doubts over what is underway. In the 166-page book the author offers a series of rather telling glimpses into the lives of Indian Americans even as he keeps the pace moving given that it is a novella and not a full-fledged novel.
On whether the objective is to start a debate about religious and cultural challenges that the diaspora community face and how the second or third generation of Indian Americans struggle to balance their lives, Dr. Thakkar says, "There is no explicit objective. My job as a writer of fiction is to tell an engaging story. Everything else is secondary. That said, I do hope some readers do feel stirred up enough to think about these issues."
A passage concerning Parthiv’s conflicted mind goes thus: "Parthiv’s was feeling increasingly torn between his growing physical attraction for Bela and what he was reading in the Sansthan literature. In a particular passage in a chapter titled "Urges and Vitality" in the book about celibacy, Guruji had written: "Physical urges of sex are an enemy of the human body’s vitality. The pleasure of sex may be good but it is short-lived and always extracts vitality in the form of semen. Yogis of India preserve that vitality by practicing celibacy. Their unspent semen becomes an eternal reservoir of vitality."
Parthiv found that after he read that particular passage his interactions with Bela began to feel strained. He particularly remembered how he turned away one evening when she was about to kiss his cheek. Bela was furious and she asked again, "Are you sure we are not breaking up? You are being weird with me. Why did you turn away?"
Realizing that he had messed up Parthiv thought it was perhaps the best time to explain to her what was going on."
(With inputs from IANS)