In Govardhan’s Travels, Anand takes over a character in legendary Hindi writer Bharatendu Harishchandra’s play Andher Nagari, in a brilliant crossover. In Bharatendu’s play, a whimsical king finds out that the noose is too small for its intended convict and wants to use it on Govardhan instead. It fits Govardhan’s scrawny neck perfectly.
In Anand’s novel, set free by Bharatendu himself, Govardhan, the archetypal victim, begins his travels that respect neither chronology nor distance. The novel moves seamlessly from the British period to Mughal times to more recent days. Here Kalidasa converses with Mirza Ghalib, Thyagaraja consoles an aging Umrao Jaan, and Galileo argues with Kepler. Soon you realise that Govardhan’s travels can have no possible ending. When last seen, he was journeying with a row of ants. Very little is lost in Gita Krishnankutty’s excellent translation, which has authentically captured the distinct, and, at times, stentorian, voice of Anand.