The Company of Women is a story of a man who is probably going through a mid-life crisis. Who wants to regain some freedom in a society that is a peep-show for all.
Millionaire Businessman Mohan Kumar recently divorced from his bitter, nagging wife Sonu, decides to embark on a very bold plan. He gives an advertisement in the local newspaper for a paid lady companion to share a few months of his life and his bed.
Thus begins his amorous journey in the company of some remarkable women who leave a lasting impression on him. From the shy professor from a small-town, Sarojini Bharadwaj, who surprises him with her passion and sexual energy, to the practiced charms of the sweeper Dhanno.
Having lived under the watchful glare of a bitter wife, Mohan Kumar sets sail on a amorous journey. Khushwant Singh has explored the workings of a lonely man who has been deprived of a need, which he no longer wants to be unfulfilled.
The women of the story are by no means portrayed as sex objects, who are merely used by the protagonist as play things but as women who are strong willed and living life on their own terms; despite being dealt a cruel hand by the world. The women are the ones who bring color into Mohan’s otherwise bland world. They do not want a shoulder to cry on or a man who only sympathizes with them. They are looking for companionship and a partner to bed them. As the story moves along Mohan falls in love with one of the women. He is not looking for love but to his own surprise he can’t help adoring a physiotherapist slash masseuse from Goa. She breathes life into Mohan’s heart, who was scared to feel and love again.
The novel also explores the life of the rich Delhi society who are hypocritical of Mohan’s choices in life though they secretly envy him. The Company of Women also explores the tender relationship of a man with his widowed father whom he holds in the highest respect. He does not forget his roots, his culture and his duties towards his father even though he has America offering him all that he desires in terms of career, money and women.
Khushwant Singh has explored the psyche of a man but he also is playing out his own personal fantasies. The lustful fantasies of an octogenarian. He states in the author’s note and I quote; As a man gets older, his sex instincts travel from his middle to his head. What he wanted to do in his younger days but did not because of nervousness, lack of response or opportunity, he does in his mind. This story is very much a figment of his Singh’s colorful imagination but it is still very much relatable to every common man and woman.
The Company of Women is not a masterpiece of literary work but it does entertain you and make you reflect upon your own hidden desires and fantasies. It projects life as it is raw and with all its Ironies. The language is not very tedious; it’s simple enough for common man to grasp. Though it is a light read, the ending of the story could leave you teary eyed. It’s a must read for all those who have always enjoyed Khushwant Singh’s open minded approach towards the Indian sexuality.