Tentacles of God
by N. Bhaskara Acharya
Category: Fiction / General
0 pages; ISBN: 00000000
Rating: 8/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Paul Lappen
Set in present-day India, this novel is about a young man named Dinakar, who enters the local government medical college. He does pretty well in his classes; not top of his class, but he doesn’t have to worry about failure. Many other students are not so confident, so at exam time, they look for any possible advantage. The male students offer the teachers monetary bribes; female students offer sex, which the teachers are more than willing to accept. Later in his training, Dinakar meets one head doctor who refuses to operate on a patient with a severe intestinal problem unless the family pays him a sufficiently large amount of money. They were unable to raise it, so the doctor gave the patient a lesser degree of care, an the patient died.
Dinakar’s best friend, Mahesh, who was pushed into a religious career by Ramappiah, financial manager of the local Hindu temple, or mutt, and local rich person, has problems of his own. Mahesh’s predecessor as swami told the story of how he was unable to keep his vow of lifetime celibacy. This wasn’t a one-time thing; over a period of time, Ramappiah supplied the temple with hundreds of willing women under cover of darkness. The swami fathered three children. Ramappiah had the swami, and the temple, totally under his control. Now, Ramappiah is doing the same thing to Mahesh, pushing him hard to forget about his vow of lifetime celibacy.
Dinakar and Elisa, his longtime girlfriend, want to get married. There is a problem: Dinakar is a devout Hindu, and Elisa is a devout Catholic. Such interreligious marriages are strongly frowned upon in India. Mahesh finds a way to bend the rules and performs the ceremony. Even though Elisa converts to Hinduism, and takes a Hindu name, Dinakar’s family is barely civil to both of them. This leads Dinakar to think that maybe he should have converted to Christianity, which allows for religious conversions, unlike Hinduism.
For Westerners, this is a pretty “quiet” book with no violence (except for a couple of suicides at the medical college) and only some implied sex. The author, a medical doctor in India, has a lot of things to say about his homeland, none of them very complimentary. Keep in mind that this tale of medical school, which could be set anywhere in the world, comes from a very different part of the world, and it is very good and very much worth reading.