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Outrageously funny, serious, gripping, Sushil Gupta's The Fourth Monkey is one of the most refreshing novels I have read in a long, long time. Shelly (short for Shalini), the Simla born protagonist's beautiful but semi-ascetic wife – and thus an expression of the novel's title denoting the suppression of genitalic indulgence – is a contrast to her Delhi based college lecturer husband, a normal healthy male with a strong and insatiable sexual appetite. The collision between the opposing temperaments of Shelly and Madan is the nucleus of the book, giving rise to hilarious dialogues and delightfully comic situations while, at the same time, probing deep into the complexities that constitute human behaviour, the rich diversity that makes homo sapiens so fascinating (and baffling) a species of creation.
Besides being a psycho-biological exploration of the male and female psyches in sophisticated settings like Delhi and Simla, the latter half of the novel whose setting now shifts to Bhutan, gives us a vivid and perennially engaging picture of college life in that mountainous region, a sexually liberated and non-hypocritical outpost of the mainland, culturally different and supposedly ‘backward' compared to the urban centres of India, yet in many ways a kind of distorting mirror reflection of what we in India – or anywhere else in the world for that matter – are in actuality beneath the surface of our public ‘correctness'.
Stylistically, The Fourth Monkey is wonderfully entertaining. Replete with innuendo, irony, and the joi de vivre of life, it employs the metaphor of cricket – to cite just one example – to illuminate sexual success, or failure, to attempt to bowl a maiden over being the ambition of every hot-blooded male. Poking good-natured fun at the duplicities of politics and religion, at the same time these spheres of human activity are never ridiculed, for their genuine sides can be ameliorative and uplifting, respectively.
It has been remarked that the aim of any writer is, first of all, to make the reader turn the page. The author's success in this endeavour is unexceptionable. And for Dr Johnson the successful writer is one who holds the reader ‘in pleasing captivity'. Reading The Fourth Monkey , I found myself held in that happy embrace from the first page to the last.
The clever, witty, and unexpected ending is a brilliant and ingenious encapsulation of the novel's theme whereby the two main characters, the passionate though now ageing husband and his renunciatory though still physically attractive wife, fulfil their divergent destinies to their own respective satisfactions – and, surprisingly, to that of the reader as well. We wish them well in their future amatory and spiritual excursions!
More than this does not need to be said, lest the reader's surprise be anticipated. A good novel is its own best recommendation, and should be allowed to speak for itself.
Gandhi's three monkeys are a famous lot. But according to the author, an invisible fourth one stands beside the three: one that covers its genitalia. Debutant novelist Sushil Gupta's The Fourth Monkey is the fictional account of a middle-class lecturer and his experience with regulatory sex and self-imposed morals.
Chasing the Monkey
“Look, don't play cricket in Bhutan . If you must, play by yourself, and that too, not often,” with these bon mots the wife packs off her husband: 55 and not quite a cricketing legend, for a teaching assignment in Bhutan . This is also the opening (and closing) line of the novel and it works like an adman's ruse.
The story is simple. So much so that you are gripped by déjà vu as if you've discovered a relative's diary. But in the larger turn of pages, it is also the story of middle class India , trapped as it has been, since independence or perhaps earlier, in a middle-class muddle. A twilight zone whose semi-dark or partly-lit landscape the author explores with the passion and precision of an embedded voyeur. Like a modern-day Vatsyayan trying to write down his dictionary of erotic experience. In the attempt the author manages to sandpaper many layers off the Indian ‘muddle class' good-family veneer. What emerges is a family that is good and respectable on the outside but whose togetherness is fraught by a hundred ‘tensions'. These are the good family concerns of millions of those who grew up in the years around Independence . People who had to live many different lives. And be good at it.
The book, written in the first person, is animated with a rare mischievousness. Madan Swaroop, a college lecturer, is at pains to explain to his god-loving wife that his ‘little master' – or ‘Sunny' as he likes to call his organ – has had enough of “domestic cricket” and would like to go for the real thing, as often and as many times as a newly-married man should. But the wife, Shelly, an “extremist of moderation” and a devotee of Krishna , rubbishes the idea that a weekly dose of sex is more than enough.
Krishna is in her life more than just a propitiatory figure. He is also her divine lover who in times of distress and confusion shows her the way. Like when he tells her to say ‘yes' to Madan Swaroop's marriage proposal and later when he asks her to keep the child she's conceived after a night of ‘rubber-less' sex. Apart from that pretty ordinary, everyday things happen to the couple. But as a good storyteller will always insist, they happen not in the way they do to other people. Here Gupta shows an eye for picking nuances of emotion and offering dramatic presentation in a calm fashion, reminiscent of Updike. Gupta, a first time author at 60, manages that without getting self-conscious. It helps that the story is autobiographical or as Gupta says in the foreword: “Everything in my novel is true, except the story”.
What I also find interesting is the author's questioning of a symbol that described for a long time how Indians looked at the rest of the world. With pronounced suspicion. While Mahatma Gandhi's three monkeys – that heard, saw and spoke no evil – became the nation's conscience-keepers, little thought went into the fact that the chosen animal was known to be rather fickle and difficult to discipline, given to bouts of copy-cat behaviour. Gupta's ribbing takes the form of the book's title, The Fourth Monkey , who with his hands on his genitals ‘does no evil'. Yet it is the one who by accident or design is conspicuous by its absence from the national trinity.
The wife-loving husband and the god-loving wife live peacefully till there comes a time when he gets a teaching assignment in Bhutan . It is there that the teacher of English literature truly finds expression to both his thwarted Romanticism and his love for literary role-playing. Especially, when two of the most sought-after girls in his college begin to flirt with him. Some more of the usual and regular await the reader as the computer-addict son becomes an IT professional and leaves for the US .
But at no point, does the book get heavy with tiresome observations. Hope, a light touch and some rib-tickling comparisons from classical literature keep the Monkey entertaining till the very end.
(BOOK OF THE WEEK)
Life comes with its ups and downs.
Here is a book that unravels these undulations
but in the bedroom of a middle-class man.
A 60-year-old first time author has delved into matters of the bedroom in his book, The Fourth Monkey . No prizes for guessing that it was only after compiling a few rejection slips that the book got published.
The Fourth Monkey is an unlikely title for a novel of this nature. But author Sushil Gupta has an explanation. The three Gandhian monkeys find recurrent mention in the book as the protagonist's wife carries these with her to his home from her maternal home. The three monkeys – see no evil, hear no evil and talk no evil – are unacceptable to the protagonist, Madan Swaroop, as he feels that by ignoring the evil around one becomes a party to it. In his life, while these three monkeys do not exist, there is another (fourth) monkey that shares space on the same pedestal. Stuck in a marriage where the wife is like a 20th century reincarnation of Mira Bai, his bedroom is full of restrictions and resolutions accompanied by meditation, fasting and devotional sprees, giving birth to the fourth monkey that ‘does' no evil and sits uptight hiding his genitals.
The book progresses from the college life of Madan Swaroop, where he finds a similar yet quite different set of four friends who have their own share of escapades. The young collegiate progresses into the work arena and becomes an English professor by sheer chance. Rejecting one marriage proposal after another, he finally marries Shelly, who is devoted to Lord Krishna. Many humorous scenes follow once the husband discovers the lover he has married.
This first phase of his life ends as he goes to Bhutan as a lecturer. The description of college life in Bhutan is a little boring after the interesting and fast paced incidents that a reader is treated to in the beginning. Many more characters enter the scene, who are juggled well by the author. But two of his students, Sherry and Tashi, find maximum space from the second phase onwards into the third phase of his life. Misadventures follow that are spaced well with Madan Swaroop's own inhibitions, problems and policies.
The book though a no-no for children does provide a few laughs for adults and young adults. There are some tit-bits of knowledge too that are delivered with the right ingredients. A corrupt politician for a father and its disheartening discovery by the daughter and her means of redemption are touching and encouraging. The imaginary conversations between the protagonist and his organ as well as the references to cricket at crucial junctures are humorous.
As a literature professor, the author has drawn from various texts, well-known paintings, myths and films. The language is facile and the pace just right. This book might come across as offensive read for some, unamusing to some and funny in parts to others.
THE EVIL MONKEY
Sunny is young, throbbing with life, eager to perform and full of anticipation. He is confident of playing big innings in the longer version of cricket. He is duly selected to play. But, what a let down! He feels cheated when the ‘authority', the selector, allows him to play only one-day game, and that too at weekends only. Not being allowed to display his genius, he tries to protest. Here starts a tussle between the selector and Sunny that stays half way through the story.
Who is Sunny? And who is this authority playing havoc with Sunny?
The story narrated in first person by the central figure in the novel, Madan Swaroop, unveils Sunny as his organ, so named, in his bachelor days. The authority or the selector is his wife, Shelly. Soon after his marriage, Madan describes his plight: “… Within a month of our marriage, she made it clear that we could not have sex whenever we liked. It had to be regulated. She decided that once a week was enough and she went ahead to fix Saturday nights for it. An added rider was that it had to be done in the dark.
“With alarm and dismay, Sunny heard the verdict. After having played domestic cricket for a decade, he was all poised to prove himself at the highest level. I had been reining him in with the promise of letting him have his way when the time came. But now I found it difficult to keep him quiet when the most desirable woman, who slept next to me and was my wife, refused to play cricket for the better part of the week.”
A highly entertaining book described as ‘comic, erotic and sophic' in the byline, introduces the most amusing element – Shelly's love for Hindu deity Krishna . She is not just a devotee, she considers Krishna as her lover a la Mira Bai. She tells Madan that he is merely a human proxy for her lover. Madan is so smitten by the beauty of his wife that he reconciles to play second fiddle to his wife's divine lover.
Talking of her love for Krishna, Madan observes: “Shelly's spiritual imagination was fired by the millennial old legends surrounding the image of Krishna as the lover par excellence. He was the anchor of her romantic fantasies while I became the human conduit for her libidinous gratification. Like a sensitive actor, I grasped the nuances of the role I was expected to play. I joined the repertory.”
Explicit, at times funny, details about sex are liberally conveyed through terms used in cricket with an extra punch. The ironies, contradictions and hypocrisies in human behaviour are in full bloom throughout the story.
When Madan asks her if she really talks to that dumb statue and whether he answers her, she says, “Yes he does. What's so surprising about that? Ever since I accepted him as my love, he has been guiding me. When I objected to my father using my graduation photograph (taken just for fun even though she hadn't yet graduated) for marriage correspondence, Krishna held me back. When you came with your parents to Simla, I wanted to back out of this marriage, but he goaded me on. He told me that he had chosen you as his human proxy to consummate our love. He asked me to visit you when your ankle was sprained. He is the one who has fixed Saturday nights for human lovemaking. He forbids me to make love in the light. He is reluctant to let me make love on a day other than Saturday. He resents it. He feels let down and sulks on such occasions.”
And yet, when a strain develops in their conjugal relations, her spiritual lover comes to her rescue and provides her a way out. What happens subsequently after the ‘marital rape' when Madan, against his better judgement, forcibly makes love? Shelly is shocked and refuses to accept his apology, leaves his house to stay with her parents and in due course discovers she is pregnant. Krishna comes to her rescue and tells her in a dream that she is carrying his child. She happily accepts his word and with a holy child in her womb returns to her husband. She does not allow him to touch her till the child is delivered. Madan rues: “Henceforth, she treated her orifice as the holy gateway to the sanctum wherein was lodged the divine embryo. The upshot was that my infidel organ was banished from the blessed site.”
Shelly's father, fond of Mahatma Gandhi's three monkeys, presented a set to his daughter. Madan has his reservations about the philosophy depicted by the three: see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. He feels instead of covering one's eyes, one should face the evil head on and make people aware of its sinister designs. By turning away from evil, one becomes a party to it.
“I used to tease Shelly for having imposed more don'ts on me than advocated by the trio: no meat, no liquor, no over-eating, no over-sleeping, no missing a shave, even on holidays, and above all, no sex for six days. The three monkeys covered the three orifices on the face, but the fourth one, covering the genitals, was missing from the pedestal. It was the invisible fourth one, manifested so prominently in her person, that affected me the most.”
When she finally graduates, she throws a party. Asked the reason for the party, she lies that it was for her sister Bubbly topping in the university. Madan finds the three monkeys pliable and finds the whole situation quite amusing.
The campus life and the Bhutanese students stand out for their uninhibited frank and modern approach. The beauty not only of the natural surroundings but also of the girls studying there strikes Madan. They are intelligent and highly interactive.
He is able to establish a quick rapport with two beauties of the campus, Sherry and Tashi. He is particularly attracted to Sherry but remains tentative in his response, not sure of himself, with ED playing spoilsport in his fifties. Tashi, on the other hand, is hopelessly besotted with him and waits for his response but feels confused and humiliated at his reluctance. Madan finds the two students in tune with his existential outlook compared to her spiritually inclined ascetic wife. These girls are fun loving and ready to go far.
Tashi's love and passion, her yearning for Madan, grows with time. What happens subsequently is for the reader to find out.
Typical nosiness about others' affairs comes out vividly as some staff members, having their own extra marital affairs, get a real high from the supposed affairs of Madan with the two students. They draw their own conclusions when they discover that the two girls were visiting Madan's flat at odd hours. Envious comments become a regular feature at the campus.
The author, a teacher of English literature, cannot help alluding to sundry literary texts, myths, paintings and world cinema. These varied allusions raise the narrative to a new level of sophistication. All in all, The Fourth Monkey is an eclectic mix of humour, erotica, inter-textual echoes and profound musings on God and religion.
(The Commonwealth Review, Vol XVIII, No. 1, pp 201-04)
A Late but Remarkable Debut
The British food critic A.A.Gill says, “Critics (like book reviewers), are eunuchs in a harem – they know how it is done, they have seen it done every day, but they are unable to do it themselves.” This is precisely what I felt when I read Sushil Gupta's debut novel The Fourth Monkey . I wish I had done it only if I had possessed his felicity with the language.
I have known Sushil since our days at the University of Delhi and I have always admired him for his cheerfulness, wit and ability to take potshots at himself. But he would turn the experience of a lifetime into such delightful reading is a pleasant revelation. Most of us come from the same stifling middle-class background, have undergone more or less similar experiences and gone through the grind blaming ourselves and the stars for our predicament, but none of us had mustered enough courage to write about ourselves simply because we could not afford to laugh at ourselves – or just because we did not have the guts to do it.
Sushil Gupta relives his experiences with a characteristic smile on his face and a devil-may-care attitude that is the envy of most of us. He has ‘packed' his knowledge of literature, films, paintings and myths in The Fourth Monkey – right from talking of his virginity to a crowded marriage (the third angle of this triangle being the beatific Krishna with whom he eventually comes to terms with), his beautiful wife rationing sex on weekends with an occasional ‘bonus', his father working in the Department of Family Planning and yet having a brood of children, his ‘bade babu' father-in-law with a slew of daughters even while professing to be a Hanuman devotee, his lavish marriage and the quirks of his wife that his family cheerfully accepts as a measure to bring about discipline in their laidback lives as well as the usual tiffs in marriage one of which leads to the birth of an immensely talented child. His friends are no different. Yet Sushil's protagonist Madan Swaroop sails through all this effortlessly, although one begins to feel at one stage that his obsession with ‘Sunny' and ‘Marshy' (names of the couple's organs) is overdone. Nevertheless, he succeeds in driving home his point.
Sushil says in his Foreword, “Madan Swaroop, the protagonist, wears my mantle loosely” in this “seamless blend of fact and fiction”. Madan Swaroop is a bit of every one of us who grew up, got jobs and got married in the 1960s. We are all Madan Swaroops to a varying degree, and it needs only an ‘open-minded reader' to recognize this.
Madan Swaroop's stint at teaching in Sherubtse College in Kanglung ( Bhutan ) is a refreshing departure from the humdrum with Mira Bai-incarnate's warning about not playing ‘cricket' (metaphor for sex in the novel) with the locals during his foreign sojourn. Temptation lies before him in the shape of a besotted student, yet he shies away because of the reluctance of his love tool. His recounting of the intimate episode with Tashi and the graphic description of the Bhutanese way of life is commendable.
Several of my colleagues have been to this Shangri-La for much longer stints than Madan Swaroop, but not one of them has had the time or the inclination to attempt something even remotely closer to what we get here. The awestruck students, mostly bright and beautiful females, are immediately taken in by this lively seasoned teacher from India who is walking-talking ‘history' to them. They compliment him: “You make us look like participants in a charade of Time and Space.” He is vintage stuff, but he tells them: “My age is a matter of chronology, my looks a matter of perception.” He is certainly not so ancient at fifty-five. With his multifarious interests and liberal outlook, Madan swaroop soon becomes ‘an angel' on the campus with many Sherlock Holmes to guide him and take care of his needs. Tashi acts as Monica to his Clinton till his wife chooses to visit him with their son for a brief holiday. Shelly still lets her spirituality get the better of her biology and Madan Swaroop's ‘sexual odyssey' continues largely unfulfilled.
Madan swaroop's stay in Kanglung is suddenly terminated with the news of his father's heart condition back home, his son gets a lucrative IT job at Bangalore , and his father-in-law is embroiled in a telecom muddle. In a filmy twist to Madan Swaroop's life, his son decides to marry Tashi. His wife leaves for Brindavan to officially become Krishna 's bride (Kanupriya) and the poor man is asked to perform kanyadan . An indefinable calm descends upon Madan Swaroop till there is a note from Sherry, the sexy siren of Sherubtse, seeking his company on her posting in Delhi . It is then he discovers the virtues of Viagra, the blue diamond pill, and hopes to start life afresh, reliving his dreams and fantasies.
The author's reminiscences of an eventful life are amusing. One only wishes he had not succumbed to the temptation of giving it the subtitle of a comic, erotic and 'sophic tale. Well, to each his own.
The Commonwealth Review, Vol XIX, No.1, pp. 157-59
What a fantastic way to start off a novel! The foreword of The Fourth Monkey fosters curiosity in the minds of the readers and they feel like settling down to the book without squandering any time.
The text delivers what it says on the cover. The fourth imaginary simian to Gandhi's famous three monkeys is the leitmotif that gives rise to comic, erotic and 'sophic elements to the book. The story is so interesting that it keeps the readers engrossed all the while. What-happens-next is the litmus test of all good fiction. The Fourth Monkey amply qualifies the test.
The author has successfully arranged real episodes from his life (for e.g. his teaching tenure in Bhutan ) with that of figments of his imagination. The amalgamation of facts and fiction results in an absorbing fare.
Structurally the novel is brilliant. The opening line of the novel is also the closing line of the novel, thus enclosing the events of a lifetime within a tight format. The same line also figures at the end of the first part almost like the refrain of a musical composition. Also, the story opens at the middle of events and gives way to flashback as it progresses. This device creates a two-way suspense. While you want to know what happens next you are also keen to know what happened before. The events are narrated in the present tense while the past tense is reserved for the flashback.
The plight of Madan Swaroop, the protagonist, can be compared to a Spartan man who was away from home in the battlefield for a long time and has just returned to his woman. He now wants to make up for all the time he was deprived of her intimacy. One wonders how the story would have developed in case there was a role reversal in the two characters, Madan Swaroop and his saintly wife Shelly.
There is a very thin line between erotica and pornographic contents. The author treads that fine line with aplomb. Kudos to him for achieving the feat with such grace! This book can better be described as bedroom humour at its best. The text is filled with allusions to films, myths, paintings and literature that make the reading all the richer.
There are a few episodes in the book that readers can take delight while reading. They bring mirth, sensuality and philosophical touch to the narrative.
In Part I (The Crowded Marriage)
The episodes, where we learn that Madan and each of his friends have names for their organs and how they constantly enquire one another as to what headway their respective organs have made in exploring coveted regions, amuse us no end. The conversation between Marshy and Sunny (the names of the couple's genitals) is simply hilarious.
In Part II (An Angel On Campus)
The life in Bhutan is to the central character what a breeze of fresh air is to a dank room that has been closed for years. So what if he finds himself amidst a free culture when he is already over the hill. He welcomes the delightful change in his life with gusto. The role of Madan as a facilitator to his student Sherry and her boyfriend has a comic angle to it. How the couple would schedule their time of meeting at his flat to make love succeeds in drawing smile from the readers. Madan Swaroop who is on the wrong side of 50 gets only a gentle peck and the title of 'angel' in return for the favour given to the couple. It's like giving fifty bucks to a patrolman each time they facilitate couples in finding a cosy corner in a lovers' park (I am sure the younger lot will relate to the simile).
Frustrating for the protagonist though, his encounter with Tashi is entertaining. Tashi propositioning the professor at the age when the spirit is willing but the love tool is too weak to muster enough strength to erect before the lady is quite embarrassing for the man. But Madan spares the blushes by playing cricket (making the lady bowl at his star batsman 'Sunny') in his own manner.
In Part III (A Real Godsend)
The symbiotic relationship between Madan's parents becomes noticeable when Madan's mother pines away after the loss of her husband. Such feelings are amiss in today's world. It touches the heart as we feel bad at the loss of the good old days when people felt for their near and dear ones. We wake up to the present world where we gloomily look at the apathy we are surrounded with. Again, when Madan allows his wife to have her way (opting for an ascetic's life in an ashram) shows the true love of a husband for his wife.
But at the end, comic tones resume with the hint of Sherry's arrival to Delhi . The news brings up the Kaamdev back to life who was lying dormant inside the ageing Madan for sometime. The novel concludes on a positive note. Instead of feeling dejected by the toll of advancing years, the protagonist looks at life with a feel-good factor. He looks forward to a new chapter in his life and prepares himself with some aids (viagra) for a fresh lease of vigour with his old flame.
Every writer pens his thoughts with the hope that readers will feel the same way as he did when he was in the throes of creation. Mr Gupta has achieved with his novel what most authors only aspire for. When the novel comes to the end, it leaves readers wanting for more. At least in my case it does. Any chance of a sequel?
(ANKUR, Vol 52, No.1-2, The Commonwealth Review, Vol XIX, No.2, pp. 149-51, 2009)
The year 2006-07 is not just the Golden Jubilee Year of the college, but a significant milestone in the literary career of one of our esteemed retired colleagues, Mr Sushil Gupta of the Department of English. With the publication of his first novel The Fourth Monkey at age 66, Mr Gupta has proved that life does not end at retirement; indeed, for some, it is a glorious new beginning.
The Fourth Monkey is the immensely entertaining tale of Madan Swaroop, an intrepid college lecturer who teaches English literature at Delhi University . On a plane journey to a teaching assignment at Sherubtse College , Bhutan , Swaroop, now 55, reminisces thirty years of his marriage with the beautiful and intelligent Shelly, a passionate devotee of Krishna , the pastoral Hindu deity.
Much of the first section of the novel A Crowded Marriage comically analyses this religio-romantic relationship: one where Madan Swaroop has to perforce make room for an alter-husband in the form of Krishna , and has to be content with strictly rationed portions of physical intimacy.
Section Two, An Angel on Campus is a picturesque, tongue-in-cheek description of life on the college campus in Bhutan : a group of teachers living and loving on the edge of existence; a community of students who are straightforward, fun loving and completely unselfconscious about their intimacies with their fellow college mates and teachers alike. It is here that the college beauty Sherry and the complex and attractive Tashi befriend Madan Swaroop – a friendship that has telling strains of physical attraction and important repercussions on Swaroop's life later on.
Section Three, A Real Godsend is structurally brilliant and emotionally cathartic. Life looks gloomy for Madan Swaroop when his marriage dissolves before his very eyes, thanks to that old culprit Krishna . But it bounces back as a real godsend happens!
The novel is both touching and hilarious. There is so much in it that we as teachers and students of a college would identify with, and also much that we would find shockingly unbelievable, but which Mr Gupta reminds us, has happened and can happen.
When Madan Swaroop takes up an assignment to teach English at the university in Bhutan , he does so after much soul searching. Here he is, in his fifties, alone and then not quite.
His wife of 25 years has decided to take sanyas . Swaroop should not have been surprised at her move. The signs were always there in his strange marriage to this beautiful woman where he shared his conjugal rights with “her God”.
His unconventional life led to some strange and funny moments but none that he couldn't handle. They even managed a child. But spirituality overcomes all and his wife finally leaves to live as a hermit.
Swaroop reaches Bhutan and is charmed by its quaintness and its people. And then because he is that sort of guy he drifts into his students' lives. Even as he decides against a sexual liaison with anyone he is unwillingly drawn into an “encounter”. But he is not complaining.
While the author tries to draw some clever parallels between Swaroop's sexual desires and cricket most of it comes across as crass. Unfortunately for the book, it is neither hardcore pornography nor a sophic tale.
Shyamala A. Narayan
Sushil Gupta taught English at a
Shyamala A. Narayan
(An edited version of this write-up appeared in the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 2008, SAGE Publications, Vol 43(4): pp 98-99)
After having read the novel The Fourth Monkey we felt for agreeing with the code of Manu about women. ‘Her father guides her in childhood, her husband guides her in youth, and her sons guard her in old age. A woman is not fit for independence.’ Issue of woman-wife becomes seriously problematic in families when gods (here Sri Krishna of gopikas) take the place of husband and dominate the women.
Conflict between the needs of body and soul, of the temporal and the spiritual in human beings, families and society is eternal. It started with Adam and will continue till the end of time. No God can help us. If ever we find a permanent solution for the human conflict in life then art and literature will cease to exist. We do not hope for such an ending. Hence we have a world of literature: poems and novels etc. They offer us humans a temporary respite in our otherwise busy life. The Fourth Monkey, a fiction crafted by Sushil Gupta, does that job for the readers.
We have heard of the story of three monkeys, ‘See no evil, say no evil and hear no evil.’ The author wrote about the fourth monkey we never heard of. Curious enough!
In his Foreword to the book and in his blurbs on the back cover Sushil Gupa tells the readers in nutshell about the fourth monkey.
Madan Swaroop, a typical young
man from a sem-liberal family in
Shelly, a housewife by
profession and an ardent lover of
All the other three monkeys close their eyes, ears and mouth but are naked. The fourth monkey, figuratively the protagonist, sees, hears and speaks everything around him but covers his nudity, of course not his virility. In the course of time Madan’s parents die natural death, his sisters get married off and settled, his son marries his girlfriend and goes away, and finally Shelly takes Sanyasa and leaves him for good. The reader may wish him that a Venus will turn up to denude him! Will she?
The author claims that the novel is a comic, erotic and philosophical tale. True, it is sometime self-pitying, often truth-seeking and very often humorous. We found nothing morally objectionable or pornographic in it. Erotic? We are afraid that matter-of-fact statements about sexual batting, bowling and innings are erotic. We feel explicit sexual behavior coupled with romantic aroma accounts for erotica.
Portraying Madan, Shelly,
Bhutanese students Tashi and Sherry is done very well. Depicting Sherubtse
college campus life at Kanglung in
Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus on the cover is very symbolic. The price quoted is moderate. The book is presentable and readable as well.
(Katha Kshetre, Vol 10, No. 01, Jan-Feb-Mar 2009)
Sushil Gupta’s ‘Fourth Monkey’
makes its own news and flutter
We all know about Gandhi’s three famous monkeys. But few have heard and know about the fourth monkey. Well, 69-year-old Sushil Gupta, resident of Sahyog Apartments in Mayur Vihar-I, thinks that a fourth monkey also exists but is hidden. A retired lecturer, this man has written a novel titled ‘The Fourth Monkey’ that is becoming a topic of discussion everywhere, especially among the youngsters.
COOL AT 69
Although Sushil is going to turn 70 soon, his attitude towards life is like a youth. He is usually surrounded by youngsters and speaks to them on various topics. He taught English literature to undergraduates at PGDAV College (1963-2005). He also studied Philosophy at The Institute of Post-Graduate Studies, DU (1965-67), and taught at Sherubtse College, Kanglung (1992-95). But there was always something in him that goaded him to portray his thoughts in the form of a book. “We lecturers get ample leisure time. After the session gets over or during the summer and autumn breaks, we stay at home and spend quality time with our family. It was during my last break I thought of doing something that fascinates me. What could have been a better creative job for an English lecturer than to write a novel,” says Gupta.
THE FOURTH MONKEY
The novel introduces readers to the psyche of Madan Swaroop whose wife is a religious person who keeps her love for Krishna above everything. For her, sex is a no-no if it’s performed more than once a week. Here the fourth monkey comes into the picture. Unlike the three monkeys who advocate not to speak evil, not to hear evil and not to see evil, the fourth one hides his genitals to convey not to have sex as it is an evil and a major hindrance to reach the Almighty. These complexities of the relationship with his wife take Madan through varied experiences of life. In spite of the fact that the novel is a comic, erotic and ’sophic tale, it produces several doubts about this new theory.
Since his childhood Sushil was bewildered about the existence of God. He puts forward an explanation: “Writing at the beginning of the 21st century, my modest ambition was to suggest that God is man’s favourite superstition. I chose the medium of fiction to put across my thesis.”
CHALLENGES IN THE WAY
Sushil had set a goal to finish it till he compiled all his thoughts fully. Whenever he used to get time he would pen down his ruminations on a piece of paper. Although most of the authors use computers nowadays, he preferred writing it in long hand. “It took me three years to finish the novel. When my son completed his MCA he bought a computer and urged me to transfer the entire manuscript on it.” Sushil further adds, “The biggest challenge for me was to find a publisher which took another three years. It is indeed hard for a first-timer to get his book published. But the day it came out, the memory of my struggle disappeared when I received adulatory response from people. Although some readers criticized my novel for harping on God’s absence, the book found its way to many a shelf.”
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