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The Guru of Love: A Novel Paperback – February 5, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

Set against a backdrop of prodemocracy unrest in contemporary Katmandu, The Guru of Love tells the story of a lowly tutor who ends up in a most irregular domestic ménage. Ramchandra lives in a shabby apartment house with his well-born wife and their children. He doesn't plan on becoming a cad, but when a beautiful young single mother named Malati becomes his student, he's drawn into a relationship with her. A powerful ambivalence marks his romance with the girl: "He had an urge to walk toward Tangal, knock on Malati's door, and tell her not to come to his house anymore, that he could no longer tutor her. Or perhaps crawl into bed next to her." When Ramchandra's wife Goma finds out about the affair, she has a unique solution--she asks Malati and her baby daughter to move into their apartment. Goma sleeps with the children and instructs the adulterous couple to share the master bedroom. She insists,: "Why don't you two go inside the bedroom, and I'll bring you some food." This license sits uneasily upon Ramchandra, much as democratic liberation sits uneasily upon the old city of Katmandu. The Guru of Love is ultimately a sweet, sad look at an indestructible family. It also gives us, in Ramchandra's wife Goma, a surprising, cunning, and altogether charming heroine. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"The days crept on, and Goma and the children didn't come home. He felt their absence in his bones, his chest, the membranes of his throat so that at times it was difficult for him to speak." Yet Ramchandra, a math teacher in 1990s Nepal, is responsible for their absence. He has become infatuated with one of his tutees, 15-year-old single mother Malati. Unable to endure his obsession, his wife, Goma, has fled to her parents' home with pubescent Sanu and her younger brother, Rakesh. But nothing-neither infidelity nor her rich parents' scorn for a son-in-law who can barely afford a dilapidated apartment with outdoor plumbing-diminishes Goma's love for Ramchandra. Eventually, she returns home with the brilliant proviso that Malati and her infant move in as well, sleeping in the master bedroom with Ramchandra. Set in Kathmandu against a background of political upheaval, Upadhyay's debut novel (following the acclaimed short story collection Arresting God in Kathmandu) is stunning in its simplicity and emotional resonance. The language captivates the reader with its singular, intimate weave of English and Nepali. One experiences this book as Ramchandra experiences his life: not at a reflective distance but swept away by it. The background, too, is vivid: the social fabric of Kathmandu, particularly the turmoil of the pro-democracy movement and the growing urbanization of an ancient city, is conveyed with detailed realism. Upadhyay, who left Kathmandu for the U.S. at 21 and teaches in Cleveland, reminds us that stories grounded in a specific place and time are the most universal. The Nepali heart is the human heart. Goma, Ramchandra, Malati, the children and the beautifully drawn minor characters are at once themselves and all of us.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (February 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618382682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618382682
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,385,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

SAMRAT UPADHYAY is the author of Arresting God in Kathmandu, a Whiting Award winner, The Royal Ghosts, and The Guru of Love, a New York Times Notable Book and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. He has written for the New York Times and has appeared on BBC Radio and National Public Radio. Upadhyay directs the creative writing program at Indiana University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on February 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Guru of Love is a terrific read. It is entertaining, engaging and well-written. The story concerns a middle-aged school teacher, Ramchandra, living in Katmandu. He has a wife he loves, two children and annoying in-laws who don't seem to like him that much. Ramchandra has middle class dreams of owning a house, but his realities keep him from that dream. To pick up some extra money, he tutors on the side. One of his tutees, Malati, is a young single mother with whom Ramchandra beomes a bit obsessed with. He begins an affair with her and ultimately, his wife finds out. His wife's behavior, while a little unconventional, makes for interesting reading. Ramchandra is not the most sympathetic of protagonists, but he is all to human and most readers will see bits of themselves in him, if not in his actions. The final resolutions of various parts of the novel (why Ramchandra's wife married him in the first place, what happens to Malati) are particularly satisfying. Not neat, tidy endings, but an excellent, and a bit amusing, ending. Enjoy this well-written novel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Megan Marston on March 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
Despite an uncreative plot, Upadhyay's "The Guru of Love" is an enjoyable book. The story centers around a married character named Ramchandra who finds himself attracted to one of his young math students named Malati. Ramchandra's wife Goma senses the attraction and she tries to teach her husband a lesson by letting Malati move in with their family and sleep in Ramchandra's bed. Unsurprisingly, Ramchandra struggles with his physical desire for Malati and his emotional desire for his wife. Unless the reader has never seen a soap opera or is too young to recall Bill and Hillary Clinton's marital saga, he or she or she will conclude early on that Goma stands by her man.
This novel is notable not for the boring love triangle but for its descriptions of Kathmandu and the many Hindu holidays and festivals that the family celebrates. The reader is transported to a city where an extramarital seduction in a temple means having monkeys wander in on the scene to watch Ramchandra and Malati consumate their desire for one another. There are also a number of descriptions of Hindu religious practices which include animal sacrifices, prayers to goddesses, and funeral services. Most interesting are the descriptions of modern Kathmandu as Ramchandra tries to adjust to his life in an overcrowded city that is on the brink of a political revolution.
You won't walk away from this novel having learned ancient Nepali love techniques like the title implies, but you will have been transported to another culture and it may leave you feeling so intrigued you find yourself planning a vacation to this region of the world. Overall, this is a very quick read and I believe that many people will enjoy this novel if they look deeper than the basic plotline.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on January 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ramchandra, a schoolteacher, seems to be happily married; his dream is to one day buy a house for his family. To earn extra income, he tutors students on the side, but he constantly and unsuccessfully struggles to make ends meet, and he falls in love with one of his students.
While this is certainly familiar literary terrain, Samrat Upadahyay's debut novel is distinctive for its Kathmandu setting, social milieu, and religious elements. Featuring prose that is emotionally reserved and stylistically brusque, the book excels at portraying a middle-class protagonist, including his guilt whenever he spends money on frivolous luxuries, his remorse when he cheats on his wife, and the drudgery of his workaday world.
The same can't be said for the rest of the characters, who sometimes border on cardboard cutouts. There are the nasty in-laws, who regard Ramchandra as an inferior match for their daughter. There is his mistress, Maliti, whose motives are shallow and whose passions seem capricious. And there is Ramchandra's wife, Goma, a compassionate, suffering saint who overcomes her initial anger over the affair and resorts to a surprising solution to accommodate her husband's mistress.
Although Goma is certainly likeable (what saint isn't?), the author presents absolutely nothing in Goma's character or background that would make this aspect of the story even remotely believable. Much of this subplot struck me as fanciful, because its representation resembled a midlife fantasy instead of a midlife crisis. True--married men everywhere have affairs and their wives accept them back, but how many wives are so bizarrely tolerant of their husband's transgressions?
The novel is also strewn with passages relating the social and political upheaval in Nepal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Prakash Vinayak Kulkarni on April 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read Mr. Upadhyay's book with great interest and he did not fail me. I finished the book in one week - the first half in one day.
The protagonist Mr. Ramchandra, his family, social and financial situation is all familiar to readers who have lived in South Asia. His picturization of those aspects is really very commendable. All the characters look very human except his wife - Goma. The rationale behind her peculiar action of accepting husband's mistress in her own house has not been explained well. Under the guise of identity crisis so many peculiar things seem to happen that the reader gets confused. Depiction of Sanu's growth and Mr. Sharma's inevitable downfall are very convincing, so is Bandana Miss. To me, Mr. Sharma looks more human than protagonist Ramachandra.
On the inside page I read something like there is a 'rich sense of connection between spirituality and sensuality.' I disagree. There is absolutely no depiction of spirituality in the novel. What is described is religious rituals in which animals are sacrificed which can hardly be called spirituality. I could not find a single paragraph showing Ramachandra was in a tug of war between spiritual conscience and pull of sensuality. Malati's shifty character does not provoke sympathy in spite of her suffering so much in life - which I take is a drawback of the plot. It also is not clear why Ramachandra continued to get attracted to her.
In spite of some drawbacks I can highly recommend this novel, which is a page turner. It makes a very interesting read. Mr. Upadhyay does seem to have a mastery over words.
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