Passionate Love and Phantastic Devotion
Title: Fujimaru Snehaya (The Fujimaru Devotion)
Author: Sachitra Mahendra
Publisher: Sarasavi Publishers
Sachitra Mahendra’s “The Fujimaru Devotion” is woven around the love story between the Sri Lankan boy Senkada and the Japanese female Chisato, who is a mother of one and married to Takashi. As depicted in the novella, the life span of the love story is two months when they meet each other on a ship when they get themselves enrolled in an International Youth Ship Programme.
Mahendra’s choice of words “Devotion” instead of the word love or affection brings the reader to a point to rethink the procession of feelings that are involved between Chisato and Senkada. Indeed there is something more than love that is involved between Chisato and Senkada. Nevertheless, Takashi too obtains a fair portion of attention in Mahendra’s novella for me.
At the outset of the novel, there is so much tension within Senkada as he yearns for the company of Chisato, yet when coming to the latter end of the novel, there seems to be a role reversal taking place where Senkada identifies his position within the dynamics. Nevertheless, Chisato has a “devotion” towards Senkada that is beyond control.
Mahendra carefully weaves his protagonist Senkada, alluring to the term “devotion” as Senkada and Chisatodo not get themselves involved in a sexual relationship during their brief affair on the ship. Mahendra more or less paints the picture of Senkada as a white character and both Chisatoand her husband Takashi as grey characters.
Mahendra’s portrayal of the character Takashi invited me to rethink whether our sympathies should lie with Senkada or Takashi. This writer wonders whether Mahendra by the word “Devotion,” meant the “devotion” that Takashi has towards Senkada at the end of the novel. Takashi appreciates the manner in which Senkada deals with his wife and clearly mentions that he has a deep respect for the behaviour of Senkada. I question again, does that deep respect towards Senkada lie within Takashi due to the lack of sexual involvement between the two? Is that where the devotion comes from? Does Takashi expect Senkada to fill the emotional void of Chisato? Does he lay that responsibility on Senkada?
Mahendra crafts a compelling storyline while bringing out numerous nuances within a complicated set of characters. Mahendra’s two main characters, Chisatoand Senkada, and for me, Takashi, the other main character, equally have space within the narrative to express their character.
Furthermore, viewing Mahendra’s craft from a feminist angle, it is clearly evident that Chisatohas a lot of agency within the narrative. In both the relationships which she shares with Takashi as well as Chisato, she completely exerts her vivid emotions. To a greater extent it is Chisato’ssay that runs the relationships. Mahendra boldly brings out that Chisatohas complete sexual authority and agency when he mentions that Chisatofantasizes about her boss while she makes love with her husband, Takashi. In that lens, Mahendra’s love can be categorized as a progressive novel.
In addition, Mahendra has been successful to a certain extent in eliminating cultural discourses within his novella. He has not embedded the cultural influence nor the cultural context to complicate the novel. Nevertheless, Mahendra brings gustatory and visual images by incorporating Japanese food items which Senkada cannot digest at most instances. Lack of cultural involvement as well as lack of extensive background details, leads the reader to think that Mahendra has entirely “devoted” his “The Fujimaru Devotion” to the devotion between the characters on behalf of each other.
On a final note, Mahendra has crafted a comprehensive plot, with vivid characterization and exciting intrigue combined to make a most entertaining read is commendable.