Sneak peek at the cover… featuring art by Chitra Ganesh and designed by Wendy Lee
Desire of the Moth: A Novel by Champa Bilwakesh
Set in a time of great conflicts and painful consequences as India shakes off its colonial
chains, this novel traces the life of one woman as she discovers the meaning of her own liberation.
The worship the heart lifts above
And the Heavens reject not,—
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion of something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow
Percy Bysshe Shelley
A 15 year old widow runs across a bridge to catch a train bound for Trichi. Sowmya is running away to make sense of the events that had seized her body and her mind, and had ripped apart her world. She is determined to flee her destiny of numbing isolation within her community, the Brahmins of the Thanjavur district in South India. Her plans pivot when she meets a devadasi – an aging dancer – in her compartment. When the woman Mallika opens her drawstring bag and buys Sowmya her dinner, Sowmya recognizes what she needs to overcome her own condition – that of a young woman in possession of a thin cotton sari, a head shorned clean, and little else. She asks Mallika how she too can achieve that kind of power – the power to open a bag and pull out money.
Thus begins Sowmya’s transformation in the city by the sea, Madras, which is in the grip of its own political and social changes while India is struggling to seize its independence from the imperial British Raj. Here she learns the beauty of dance from Mallika, and the sweetness and agony of falling in love with a married man. The cinema brings unimagined opportunities and all the power and riches that she could desire, but it also consumes her relentlessly. When a letter arrives, Sowmya begins her quest to regain everything that had been lost when she once lived in that small village tucked into a little bend of the Kaveri river.
Cover Art: “Devika Rani” by Chitra Ganesh
Champa Bilwakesh was born in India. She earned her MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. Her story “The Boston Globe Personal Line” was published by Kenyon Review, Fall 2005. Nominated for the Ploughshares Emerging Writers issue, it won honorable mention in the Pushcart Prize XXXI. It has been translated into Italian for the online magazine, El Ghibli. Her other works have won prizes in the Katha short story contest by India Current, San Jose, and published in the online journal, Monsoon Magazine. She lives in Andover, MA where she produces TV shows for the community channel.
Our readers have been submitting “selfies” with Champa’s book!