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Book Review: The Sensualist: A Cautionary Tale by Ruskin Bond

The Sensualist by Ruskin Bond is not a children’s book. Rather this book takes a stance on a man who once was obsessed with having sex and driving pleasure from women. This book, in particular, discusses the darker aspect of human psyche. The narrator is walking long a river bank while going somewhere up in the hills. As it begins to rain, he seeks shelter in a cave. The cave is inhabited by a man: he is like a saint but of well-built physique. The narrator and the man begin conversation. The saint-like man talks about his past life and how he came into the hills. Both men are nameless in the story; the only names that appear in the story are of women.

The saint-like man’s sex drive story starts something like this. As a child he was under the caretaker of a voluptuous female servant called Mulia. She was of strong flesh and bones, they both get attracted to each other and though he was only a child then but he began enjoying her body and cuddling. The boy’s mother was aware of this but she didn’t get into it because he was the only child of her and, moreover, she herself was fond of him. His father was a rich businessman. He never cared for his son, neither expected any good great deal from him. He knew that he was going to be a fruitless chap, not useful for his business. Mulia was double his age but she continued to be his bed partner until he became an adult and then one day he ran away.

The second lady in his life was his cousin Samyuktha. She was a student of Vedic medicine. Whenever Samyuktha’s mother went away, he would go and snatch her. The girl was of ordinary beauty but held a high charm in bed.

Not only this, he used to visit a prostitute as well. Her name was Sankhini. Since he gave her good money, hence she used to spend good and quality time with him. From all three women, he would drive pleasure like a selfish beast but he never cared to fall in love.

One occasion, his father forced him to go to Delhi to attend an exhibition. While travelling from Dehradun to Delhi, when the train halted at Deoband for no apparent reason, on an impulse he got down.

Next, he put himself up in a hotel and began living there to observe the life of other people. One night while strolling, he stumbled upon a poor young boy sleeping on the pavement. He took him to his hotel. The boy expressed his misery and said that he would like to go back to his home that was somewhere up in the hills and for travelling he had no money. The man promised him to take him to his home; soon they began journey; first by bus and then by foot. They reach his village. There he saw that Roop’s mother was a widow. Roop’s younger brother went to school every day. The widow was of great physical and mental toughness. Satiating that lady was a difficult task indeed…he felt that way. He knew that widow had been keeping an eye on him. One summer night, she grasped him and took out all his virility off him. He felt incomplete to satiate her. She would feed him with herbal potions only to squeeze him later. He grew pale and indifferent. He wanted to run away but found his suitcase locked inside. Roop’s younger brother understood his plight and then secretly took out his wallet from the storeroom and handed him. He ran away one morning.

When he reached home, no one said a single word to him. He lost interest in Mulia, he failed in bed with Samyuktha, and also with that sex worker Sankhini. He was made impotent by that hill woman. Leaving his world, the man shameful of his actions, headed towards the mountains to live alone.

The message from the book is that in pursuit of carnal desires one should not cross certain limit. The narrator finds the saint-like man cold in every sense, thus leaving him he advances ahead to his destination.


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