BOOK REVIEW / Decolonisation and the Swan manoeuvre: The Revised Kama Sutra - Richard Crasta: Fourth Estate, pounds 12.99

Share
Related Topics
A WARNING: The Revised Kama Sutra has no pictures, no miniatures of Indian couples enjoying the Swan manoeuvre or the really impossible one in which the woman spins on her lover's member like a runaway tyre bouncing along the motorway. In fact, there is little actual sex in Richard Crasta's novel, but an enormous amount of sexual frustration. Sometimes it's even funny.

Lately, an entire sub-genre of Indian novels has popped up in which the narrators are bright and westernised. They tend to masturbate a great deal and blame the Victorians for turning India into a nation of 870 million prudes. This can be tiresome, but Crasta's novel is humorous and irrepressibly manic. His is a long howl against India's colonialists for eradicating the Hindus' millennial belief in the sanctity and playfulness of sex or, as he puts it, for making them 'lose sovereignty over the little territories between their thighs'.

It is not a fair shot. For 1,500 years the Kama Sutra remained unknown and certainly unpractised by all but a few upper-caste Indians. Poor Indians simply don't have the leisure or privacy, in their crowded huts, for sexual antics. Conservatism existed long before the missionaries.

Crasta, an Indian now living in New York, is at his best on every Indian's obsession with going to America. At age 29, Vijay Prabhu, a south Indian Catholic from a poor, middle-class family, realises he is 96 women short of reaching his goal of 100 women by his 30th birthday. He is in love with an image of America nurtured from Reader's Digest jokes and the songs that his racy, bobbed-haired Auntie Meera plays on her gramophone. He is an Indian Portnoy educated by Catholic nuns.

His sanity is saved by dreams of Jackie Kennedy. The novel is punctuated with letters to her (all unanswered and some unsent). His odyssey continues, fitfully. He visits a brothel where a delightful password, 'the moon is round', opens the door to his first sexual encounter. He makes his excuses and is kicked out. Most of Vijay's sexual guidance comes not from Sir Richard Burton's translation of the Kama Sutra, which the schoolboy finds too prissy, but from pavement purveyors of smut. More useful than the Kama Sutra is another treatise by a priestly sexologist. It is full of dangerous advice, as Vijay finds out, while groping his girlfriend Maya in the rear of a sputtering auto-rickshaw: 'When the woman gets passionate her eyes become like a drunkered one, red like blood, her breath flows fast. At that time the man can make use of any organ without objection.'

When Vijay is not worrying about pimples or memorising sex manuals for the distant event of his first coupling, he is busy earning scholarships and scoring exam firsts. He wins a place in the elite Indian Administrative Service, and becomes a nawab of the bureaucracy; in his mid-teens he governs a district of 25 square miles, with more than a million people. Yet he gives it all up for America, where he is snubbed as an Indian nerd in a cheap anorak. He concludes that America is 'an antiseptic land of loneliness and fiercely loveless cities'.

That's right. Vijay cannot easily find a woman prepared to let him toy with her. In desperation, he mounts an anti-Sex campaign and is forced to flee back to India when thousands of frustrated Americans belonging to 'Jesus Lovers Against Copulation' and 'Romance Novelists Against Pornography' hail him as a eunuch-messiah. He opts for India over America. 'They did not judge you by the name of the crook etched on your polo shirt. It was the more civilised country.' He is probably right.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there