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Book Review: The Buddha of the Brothel by Kris Advaya

In her viewpoint he is the Buddha of the Brothel. But would she trust him, a man who will fight for her freedom at the risk of his own freedom?

Kris never has had a smooth or easy-going past. He hails from Slovenia: a war-torn country, despondent by military abuse and an untimely death of a close friend. This is too much to endure for a way cooler personality, like Kris. Thus to leave behind a hurting past and a celibacy of seven years, he flies down to India, in Pune, to study Ayurveda, especially massage. He gets a dedicated orthodox teacher Arun, a mediocre personality on account of that their student-teacher understanding advances on clumsily.

One fine day Kris goes to ABC (Appa Balwant Chowk), a popular market for books, to buy books recommended by his teacher. The market is not far from the red light area of Pune. He, unintentionally, walks into the peripheries of the brothel and spots a beautiful but dusky girl of around twenty-years old. He falls in love with her at first sight, not knowing she is into sex trade. Later, as when he frequents the brothel, he discovers her name is Radha and she is not a prostitute by choice but by circumstances.

Soon they develop soft love corners for each other, especially Kris. She narrates her story of agony when she was raped by his agent to teach her sex and the normal brutalities carried on by the local police on the sex workers.

Kris becomes obsessed with her and often thinks of freeing by marrying her. Mentally, he sets himself into a process of winning her. But the customs of the world aren’t too plain or straightforward for lovers. He, being a foreigner, thinks wooing Indians is easy. He initiates the talk of marriage with her. Radha takes it as not a surprise – she is used to such kind of clients – or probably he is just another client, polite and a bit concerned. She vapidly says that he needs to talk to Sunil Bhai, the agent who brought her into prostitution.

Sunil is ready to give her away but he needs to pay a price for that. An unlikely test of both: mettle and honesty in love. Radha is the most revenue generating prostitute in her group. Letting her go prematurely at the prime of the youth means lot of business loss for him. On one hand, if Radha tried to elope or run away, her family back in Karnataka will be killed by Sunil and his men. Presumably, her hands look tied. On the other hand, Kris isn’t a rich guy to pay the price for her.

Next, Sunil brings forward a smuggling deal for Kris. He has to smuggle a packet of heroine to Sri Lanka. Kris has a hunch that as a foreigner he is likely to be cheated or taken for granted. He could refuse the offer, and have sex with other many prostitutes, but for him Radha isn’t just a men-changing prostitute. He has evolved, by the trauma seen in his life, to accept Radha as a human being, not a sex object meant for toying. This is something great about him. Despite knowing that he could get into imprisonment if caught in the case of drug trafficking, but still he goes ahead. And Radha prays for him: she knows the intricacies laid out by the agents but still she prefers to remain silent, maybe she is more inclined over the safety of her family back in Karnataka.

As per the planning, Kris first goes to Mumbai and then delivers the packet in Sri Lanka, but he had difficult time getting out of their as he developed pain in lower back. Before going to Sri Lanka, Kris takes a trip to South India, meeting some of his old saintly pals with whom he shares his love story. Even the smugglers are wondered upon knowing that he has fallen for a prostitute, that too a black one.

Kris comes back happily, with all the preparations galloping in his mind. But his luck peters out when he finds out Radha is not in Pune anymore. She has been transferred to some other place and it is sure that he won’t be able to trace her again. In a way, he has been cheated fully by Radha and vile men like Sunil and Ali.

Kris Advaya has honestly painted the true picture of Indian brothels and the cribbing mentality that goes with it. At one instant one of his Indian friends insists that these whores are meant for dirty laborers, not for us. The novel is slow-paced but unfolds the events efficiently; at times, the plot is tightly packed.

The force of the characters is missing. Radha could have been aggressive and initiator of things for liberality. But she was reluctant; maybe being in a prostitution profession is like stagnant in a frozen lake. Stone-hearted women of this profession don’t get thawed by sweet talks, polite behavior, over-the-top promises, or simply a big dream shown by a foreigner. Do you think Indians can trust a stranger from abroad?


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