Skip to main content

The character Radha in Anand Mahadevan's 'The Strike' (2011)

The novel The Strike by Anand Mahadevan, published in 2011, is set in India in the 1980s. It focuses on the accidental troubles of an innocent boy, Hari.

Radha, an hijra, first appears in Chapter 10. Hari meets her on a train after he wanders away from his family. She is initially described this way:

“Her arms were slender and fine, though her skin was very dark. Her thick hair was pitch black and tied into a neat bun at the back, with coral jasmines braided around it. There was a trace of red kumkum powder where the furrow of the parting met her forehead and under the kumkum, a short grayish white stripe of holy ash on her forehead. A small golden earring dangled from an earlobe. An electric blue sari was draped loosely on her thin frame, over a blue cotton blouse. She squatted atop a small red suitcase, next to the toilets, in the corridor that led to the umbilical linking the coaches. A woven bamboo basket stood next to her.”

She has been chewing betel nuts. In Hindi, she asks Hari if he wants oral sex, and she makes "the typical gesture of the hijra" with her hands clapping, pointing toward Hari. Because of her "disguise," Hari initially "failed to notice the man in the pretty woman," but then he "realized that she was a eunuch." He “found her rather pretty” but then thought: “This bizarre wretch was permitted her idiocies because she was an hijra – impotent, castrated – her head filled with superstitious nonsense as she was simultaneously revered and reviled.”

Radha is a strong personality.

‘What are you doing here?’ Hari said.
She frowned, ‘What? Is this your father’s train? What do you care what I do here?’

In another situation, she tells the legend of Kannaki who tore off her breast to save a city, and she acts it out by pulling out and throwing the cloth she uses to stuff her bra.

Radha comes to the car where the men are playing cards, and she “teased the men until they coughed up money.” She claps and says “chakka, chakka, chakka.” She warns them: “Remember, I can curse you with impotence as easily as I can bless you with sons.” When someone gets angry, she says: “It’s just dhandha [i.e. business], don’t get all spoiled.”

As is common for eunuch characters in other novels, Radha tells the story of her castration. She says, “No one is born a Chakka; you have to be selected to become one.” She says the selection process is secret. Hari requests more information and pays her five rupees to tell her story. Radha explains that, as a boy, at about age 13, she ran away to Bombay and took any work she could find, eventually becoming a Bollywood makeup artist. She liked wearing women's clothing but found that she didn’t like sex with men. An older hijra found her crying and took her into a household of about a half-dozen hijras, where Radha did their makeup. Eventually, in 1984, the older hijra traveled with Radha to a small village outside Bhopal. In an abandoned Devi temple, they offered alcohol to the goddess, and then Radha drank it and her genitals were tied tight. She nearly passed out, and, “just before the first ray of the dawn sun hit the sky,” the older hijra castrated her with a “long knife and slick”. Radha claims it was painless. They returned to Bhopal that day, which was full of poison gas. It was the day of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

This was probably a helpful story for Hari to hear. Hari is beset with guilt for committing small transgressions that are immediately followed by larger, unrelated accidents. He feels that he is somehow responsible for the larger accidents because of his own personal sin. In hearing Radha's story, he may be able to understand that Radha's castration did not cause the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Radha remains a mentor or guardian figure for Hari throughout the novel.


Popular posts from this blog

Castration at the Battle of Adwa (1896)

On March 1, 1896, the Battle of Adwa "cast doubt upon an unshakable certainty of the age – that sooner or later Africans would fall under the rule of Europeans." In this battle, Ethiopians beat back the invading Italians and forced them to retreat permanently. It was not until 1922 that Benito Mussolini would again initiate designs against Ethiopia, leading to its defeat in 1936, but ultimately, Ethiopia retained its independence. "Adwa opened a breach that would lead, in the aftermath of world war fifty years later, to the rollback of European rule in Africa. It was," Jonas wrote, "an event that determined the color of Africa." (p. 1) It was also significant because it upheld the power of Ethiopia's Christian monarchy that controlled an ethnically diverse nation (p. 333), a nation in which, in the late 19th century, the Christian Emperor Yohannes had tried to force Muslims to convert to Christianity. (p. 36)The Victorian English spelling popular at t…

Review of Cliff Sims' 'Team of Vipers' (2019)

After he resigned his position, Cliff Sims spent two months in Fall 2018 writing Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House. Many stories are told, some already well known to the public, some not. One buys this book, most likely, to gape at the colossal flameout spectacle that is Donald Trump, as with most things with Trump's name. Sims exposes the thoughtlessness, the chaos, the lack of empathy among his fellow insiders in the campaign and later in the White House, but he does not at all acknowledge the real consequences for ordinary Americans — there might as well be no world outside the Trump insider bubble, for all this narrative concerns itself with — and therefore falls far short of fully grappling with the ethical implications of his complicity.Previously, Sims was a journalist. "I had written tough stories, including some that helped take down a once-popular Republican governor in my home state," he says. "I had done my best to be acc…

The most embarrassing 'Dr. Phil' episodes

Dog costumes, videotaped brawls: Embarrassing behavior aired on 'Dr. Phil'The "Dr. Phil" talk show addresses dynamics of dysfunctional relationships. Many of the problems people bring to the show can seem to embarrass them in the eyes of the viewers.This article was originally published to Helium Network on April 13, 2014. Dr. Phil McGraw, cover of Newsweek Magazine, 2001. Photo by Jerry Avenaim, WikiMedia Commons © Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic licenseDr. Phil is an American talk show host who brings together people in dysfunctional family relationships and makes them confront each other so that they can attempt to move their relationships through the impasse. The issues discussed on the show include rebellious teens, cheating spouses, drug use and violence, and when "talking it out" is not enough, Dr. Phil's team may offer a gift of inpatient rehabilitation or another appropriate psychological service…