Sudhir Kakar is obviously a well-repected and accomplished thinker and writer. His non-fiction books include The Inner World: A Psychoanalytic Study of Childhood and Society in India, and The Analyst and the Mystic, among many other "essential writings." His understanding of children and mysticism apparenty runs pretty deep.
So how is it possible that in this novel the rape of a child (the young, semi-hermaphrodidic Gopal--who goes on to become the revered spiritual leader Ram Das Baba) is accounted for in the narrative as no more than the method by which "his Kundalini" was awakened from "where she slept at her seat above the anus"? The child's subsequent painful contraction of his anal muscles to withstand the torture, his weeks of listlessness, dullness, bursts of screaming, incoherent babbling, and glazed eyes, "as if there were no one at home in the body" are never related back to his molestation by the adult tantrik. By this I mean that Gopal never speaks or thinks about what happened to him, and neither, in any sense I can find, does the author.
I'm baffled. These are the possibilities I can think of:
1) Because the novel is based on real historic events, the author may have been following the facts without feeling at liberty to question them further than the real historical personages did. If Ram Das's real life counterpart claimed his Kundalini was awakened with the aid of a helpful tantrik who ordered him out of his clothes and "crushed his will" to refuse, who's a novelist to doubt it?
2) The author may not have realized that the events he relates WERE the rape of a young child. I know this sounds silly, but there is something elliptical and detached in the langugage and imagery, and in how quickly the scene cuts off. Is it possible the writer is implying something else, spiritual and edifying, took place after Gopal lost consciousness?
3) Maybe the book really does mean to allow that on the road to spiritual enlightenment the sexual abuse of a child by an adult is helpful. Certainly, Ram Das Baba's worldview is never questioned as being in any way bogus or over-compensating. He's meant to be read, I think, as the real thing, at least in the eyes of the disciples who interact with him. But his genuineness is never given the chance to stand up to integration with his abuse. Is Ram Das Baba running from something? Sudhir Kakar doesn't seem to want to know.
I've focused on one very brief episode in a complex novel, but I can't help it. I'm drawn back to the question of the child and the tantric in a way that overrides all the interest and pleasure the book might otherwise have provided me.