Book Review: The company of women – Khushwant Singh. by Bhabana Pathak

What our eminent author Khushwant Singh has tried portraying through this blunt and stereotypic sexual comedy is the picture of an Indian male, and the relationship with his counterpart women which is basically sexual here. The protagonist is Mohan who being a gifted academic, completes his graduation abroad (U. S) and after rejecting many lucrative offers comes back to India, where his aged father awaited him. Mr. Singh, in a very humorous tone, has depicted the auctioning in an Indian marriage. Even through humour, he is adept in connecting us with the ongoing issues of the Indian society. Mohan does settle down with a handsome dowry and on a sad note, a cranky, jealous and mediocre wife. His marital bliss had its short comings which eventually ended up with a divorce, his loyalty being the best plausible cause.

The story proceeds as Mohan, in an attempt to overcome loneliness, starts having contractual trysts with women, which included an English professor Sarojini Bharadwaj, Molly Gomez,a masseur and Susanthika, a Sri Lankan Diplomat. He being a very young millionaire gives in to lust and then to love, exotically and unnervingly.

The projection of Mohan might seem excessively obscene at times but on a serious note, through some light fencing, the role which he played of a loving son was noteworthy. After the demise of his father, throughout his life till the end he kept going back to Haridwar as a part of his promise to his father and stayed at his father’s room.

Its the story of his “commendable” life where he literally “ate, laughed and made merry”. Mohan was never faithful as a married man. His promiscuity could be derived from his varied relationships with his house maid and his baby’s nurse. His never ending endeavors with a fair set of women, pre and post his marriage stand as vivid examples to this tale. All his life he had a lustful relationship with various women but Susanthika was his last one, she dumping him for the States. His character showed signs of nursing a broken until his infliction with the disease. The story is gripping with funny narrations in uncertain situations. Its erotic as well as engrossing. The author has done full justice depicting the playfulness of Mohan. Also the end do sends a moral to men who portray such promiscuity, Mohan ending up as an AIDS victim. Somewhere it’s an image of what we see around. From lusting after one’s maid to paying for it, this is harsh. And hence, a justice to the title, Mohan’s life in “The company of women”.

A word about the author – he is a brilliant storyteller. Mr. Khushwant Singh has done a wonderful job through this story, he is best in his humor. We don’t usually find writers of his genre in Indian literature.

I practically soaked up all the humor filled emotions throughout the book. The characters are very real and relevant. Its modern day India indeed, no place else would a man go for his maid (jokes apart!). Mohan, was looking for love, let it be physical to his best concern. Also the social message will be an eye opener to people.

To all the people who want to have a good laugh and are ADULTS, you can try this book.

P. S. – girls might want to flinch once after reading it. 🙂

Happy reading.

Review by Bhabana Pathak, Guwahati

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6 Comments

6 Comments
  1. Hmm…I had the pleasure of finally reading this book, and in fact I did a short review too, which can be found here http://thousandmilessite.in/book-review-the-company-of-women/ unlike Bhabana’s review, mine is very short and not noteworthy.

    I thought I would point something out to Rini, you mention (I quote) ‘For reference, note the innumerable times he has emphasised and reemphasised on the fact that (and I am quoting ) “I am a man, only women are virgins” !’. This is entirely wrong, Singh does nothing of this sort. I found the book to be a good read, it is not exotica or erotica in any sense, its just the plain truth. He has not stereotyped any religion, or any country, he has just shown some instances of daily happnenings in many parts of India and certainly the US. I do agree however that he was much better in Train to Pakistan.

  2. Rini Barman

    When a review is put up , well, I thought it also speaks about why or why not a reviewer chose to review a book in a certain way. And when did i say , khuswant singh has put no effort in his book ? Was my argument about an author’s effort ? I don’t think so.

    And yes, Manjil, I dont understand how can words scare people . Thanks.

  3. bhabana pathak

    manjil, :p

  4. Rini, don’t scare Bhabana. This was her first try. 😀
    Haven’t read the book, but would love to some day. Then maybe I can give a more intelligent comment.

  5. bhabana pathak

    well miss Rini Barman, i had the utmost priveledge in reviewing such a great writer’s book. Look i have no notion in supporting or disregarding any subject matter that u have so vividly described. Every author puts up a lot of effort in carving a book. I respect his work and so was the review. This review was not a debate where i asked people whether they agree to me or not. It was simply a trial to help people pickup some good books. Read the review, read the book if u liked the story and if u don’t , no big deal. Its just a plain simple review of what i feel a worth readable book.
    Thank u for reading.

  6. Rini Barman

    “We don’t usually find writers of his genre in Indian literature.” I strongly disagree with this statement Bhabana, This is one of the most irritating books i have ever read , [it tops the list of some of the arid sexual sadomasochistic hollow comedies!]. As far as Khuswant Singh’s writing in concerned, I guess he was way better in A train to Pakistan or The sunset Club. Now, if by “his genre” you mean “sexual comedy ” or “erotica” or “exotica” I would say (and most carefully read readers would agree), that the author has done justice to none of the above. He has stereotyped every goddamn male, every community (hasnt even spared the westerners , the Pakistanis etc), every religion in this book. And what’s worse, his libidinal bonds with women have in no way affected his conventional morality that he associates with sex and sexuality. For reference, note the innumerable times he has emphasised and reemphasised on the fact that (and I am quoting ) “I am a man, only women are virgins” ! . And the references go on and on, strangely enough the power equations in this book arouses anger in me, and the job of a writer is to question orthodox notions (if at all he is planning to reform his society , which Khuswant Singh writes about grandly in magazines) , and not re-establish them through his book.
    There are plenty of prolific , sensitive writers in India across languages who are great storytellers of love , sex and sexuality. Lets celebrate them, instead . Thanks for the review.

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