So at last I have completed the book I was waiting to read. Yes, it is Neil D’Silva’s Maya’s New Husband; the grotesque horrendous thriller.
I have completed the book in three sittings and I’ll point out below the aspects that have appealed to me.
If it’s just a thriller about a cannibal serial killer, the story wouldn’t be much interesting. It is the mythical theme of worshippers of Lord Shiva that has made the book more intimidating. The mythical angle has always remained an underlying theme over the gruesome story.
Glory in gore:
Yes, this book is full of nauseating and hideous scenes coming out straight from some Hollywood cannibalistic movie. But, the good thing is ─thanks to the author’s tremendous ability─ he has transformed even utterly macabre scenes into almost delightful wordplay.
See the following lines:
He lifted the stone. The skull was smashed in two and the brain was spilled out onto the wooden bed that he had been sleeping on. His eyes popped out with the impact, one of them smashed, a gooey yellow mass oozing out of it. The impact retracted the skin of the head, and his mandibles now jutted out, a sickly sight of white bone protruding out of his wizened wrinkled cheeks.
It is a textbook example of picturing something vividly rather than just narrating in a boring way.
Another lay on its back, the skin torn, the spine broken and jutting out of it. A rotting spinal cord played peekaboo from the twisted vertebrae.
The book is full of satiric scenes which almost have made me laugh. Surprised, huh? How can a spooky book become funny? Okay, imagine the following scene: husband is having sex with her wife with animalistic force and they are having the following conversation;
“What is strange?” he asked. He had already stripped her naked and was forcing his way inside her and trying to squeeze her breasts at the same time, much like he were trying to milk a cow.
“Padma called me today saying that she wanted to come for a visit.” Maya felt the pain but did not show it; instead, she guided his organ into her. “But she didn’t turn up at all.”
He grunted and began moving his groin slowly over her.
“I tried calling, but she didn’t answer or even return calls. I am worried about her.”
“What the fuck!” he ceased and yelled at her. “Here I am trying to have a good time after a long day’s work and all you speak about is somebody that didn’t turn up? She’s not a child; she will find her way home eventually.”
Surely, Maya was not happy. But, this conversation has infused some black comedy in it.
Here is another example. I’ve laughed for the aghori saint’s awkward behaviour.
“Bam Bholenath!” She turned sharply towards the source of the sound—her own door. She had forgotten to close it after Akram had left, and now she saw the hermit standing right at her doorstep. The tantric—for that’s what Maya assumed him to be—cut an imposing figure, standing there with a human bone in his hand and with eight rings on his fingers, each containing motifs of human skulls in their various forms. But, what really paralyzed Maya was that the bowl he held in his hand was not just a bowl. Her innate knowledge of human anatomy told her it was an upturned cranium cut neatly out of a human skull.
“Bam Bholenath,” he repeated and Maya looked up at his face. From this proximity, his face looked more intimidating.
Also the author’s smart use of phrases like “Thigh Food” have added mockery is his presentation.
Actual horror elements:
Cutting hearts out, peeling skins are not the most horrific elements as one should expect. The book is spine chilling because there are few scenes that suddenly make you guess what bad things would happen next. See the following:
Padma disconnected the phone and moved out of the computer lab. As she walked along the empty corridor, she ensured the clip was still with her. There was nothing on her mind at the moment except showing that clip to her friend and perhaps help her decide the future course of action.
But, she shouldn’t have been so lost in her thoughts.
For, if she had been more alert and looked at the other end of the corridor, she would have seen the tall dark man staring at her with hands buried in his large trouser pockets and murder in his face.
She was stupid. Engrossed in her talks, she hadn’t even seen him earlier peering through the side window of the computer lab with his bloodshot eyes,…
Yes, this prelude to the cruel aftermath is the actual horror element.
“You just said some garage—” began Maya but was immobilized midsentence, for her mother made a sign to her to keep quiet. It was a well-known gesture, understood by her daughters. It had been used several times over the years. But it wasn’t much of a deception and Bhaskar, who was watching his mother-in-law’s every expression like a marauding hawk, caught the slight wrinkle of caution that flashed over her eyebrows.
There are few clear cut metaphors like love with cocoon, but there are few subtle ones too. Have a look:
He had laid a meticulous plan to ensnare her, and she had fallen right into the trap. Like a fly that knowingly walks into a spider’s web. Only, this fly had apparently endangered the other flies around it too.
This book has shown some unknown emotions that can come out during acute existential crisis. The following line can send chills to any feminist.
A female victim’s thought:
If he just rapes me and leaves me, she thought, I’ll run away from here never to return, and forget all about this nightmare.
“Do what you want with me,” she said between her sobs. “But, let me go. Let me go, please. I have a son.”
However, there was no way this nightmare would end.
What could have been better:
This book is very good, even surpassing many recent thrillers. But the horrific and gory things have constructed the main thrilling elements here. The plot is sometimes predictive. The anti-parallel scenes in part one have already given hints to the later incidents. It would be lot better, if the author would try to hide the cannibalistic nature of the villain at first, and unveil it in later part, in a sudden shock.
But, the fact is, we are readers. And it’s easy to comment on something already near-perfect piece and boast about it. Even it has reminded me of the classic American Psycho sometimes. Hence, I like to congratulate the author Neil D’Silva for writing a much needed book for Indian literature and that too with undeniable mastery.