May 30, 2020
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Anatomy Of A Raj

A historical return to the anatomical parts last encountered in Intermediate Biology, now attached to heroic figures from India's colonial past.

Anatomy Of A Raj
Perineum: Nether Parts Of The Empire
By Ambarish Satwik
Penguin India Pages: 159; Rs: 200
Growing up in the Delhi of the ’60s, I remember the most erotic form of adult literature was R.C. Duggal’s Intermediate Biology—a forthright account of the act of reproduction; with sectional drawings of sexual organs. Perineum is a historical return to some of the same anatomical parts, now attached to heroic figures from India’s colonial past.

Ambarish Satwik is a surgeon, and so, acutely aware of the quirks and conditions of human anatomy. It is these that are the focus of his remarkably lucid satire. In 13 stories that trace the chronology of Empire—from Bobby Clive’s circumcision, to the final acts that lead to Indian Independence, the author cleverly mixes known fact with anatomical insight, leaving readers hanging between reality and fantasy.

Satwik’s imaginative odyssey will doubtless leave the puritanical distressed and confused. Did the enema his daughter-in-law gave to Bahadur Shah in a Rangoon prison bring on "the quiver of a man carnally affected by a bowel wash"? Did the king really suffer "a torsion of the right testes" during the Coronation Durbar? Could the Viceroy’s lack of sphincter control have led to concessions that eventually got India its freedom? Satwik seems to think so. So will many of his readers.

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