The Parrots of Desire: 3000 Years of Indian Erotic Writings

by Amrita Narayanan

Read time: about 4 minutes

This book came as a pleasant surprise to me when aleph company offered the Review copy of the book. It must have taken a lot of research from the author to do a collective of writings such as this one.

Cover: The Parrots of Desire: 3000 Years of Indian Erotic Writings

Cover page

On the cover is an impression of a flower constructed by humans. This is not very noticeable in the first go but when you do notice it you cannot help but awe at it. The black background makes the image and the text stand out. It is a simple yet beautiful cover.


The book is an anthology of erotic writings as the title suggests. The author has carefully divided the content into several parts beginning with the very basic question- why does sec exist? The answer comes with different literary scholars talking in favor of intimacy. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad expresses that desire drives destiny and Roberto Calasso has written a beautiful piece that reasons that it exists to refresh the world’s gloss. There are several short poems in this category that make reading a delight.

In ‘Art of Seduction’ Narayanan has gathered together pieces from ancient literature such as kamasutra and koka shastra to take one through the art of seduction. This section is particularly tiresome as the descriptions don’t seem to end. But things do improve in the next segment when several authors come together to describe the ennui in marriage. A very beautiful piece of writing called ‘Kitten’ can be found in this segment that is written by Kamala Das.

The further segments talk about rapture and longing. Here we see Tarun Tejpal talking about the bond between a couple.

The truth is godhead is tangible. Smellable. Tasteable. Penetrable. The morning I woke up and felt no urge to slide down her body and inhale her musk I knew I was in trouble.

The book further takes you to the first time. In this section you will find beautiful stories from great authors such as Ginu Kamani and Manjula Padmanabhan. ‘Anguish, Abandonment and Break Up’ talks about the pain of separation. One can also find a page on how to drive away a lover should you tire of him one day. To imagine it being a part of Kama Sutra would have been difficult if I wasn’t reading it myself.

There comes anger and punishment after this and then the question as to who enjoys sex better- a man or a woman?

Subsequent parts being together the love hat exits together between two women. Ismat Chugtai’s ‘Lihaf’ makes an important part of this segment. Then comes nostalgia where Manto talks about the reminisce of a beautiful evening spent in a good company of a woman.

The author subsequently drifts to suspicion and confusion. This segment talks about infidelity and suspicion on your partner. The book ends with Coda. This part talks about the act only being natural and there not being any shame in it.

Needless to say, this book makes for a beautiful anthology. There are quite a few pieces suggesting love between two women but not so for one existing between two men.

As a ardent history lover and I have trained myself to read what is written and also what is not written in a piece of paper. Something that escapes a mention also has a lot to say.

I have not read many Indian writings talking about two men in love with each other. This could be a cause of concern as a reader for me or just maybe, as a society for all of us.


Some of the stories/poems are very easy to understand while some come from classical writings. These may need a literature teacher. I was reminded of reading Shakespeare in school while reading some of the pieces in the book.

Good points

The cover is minimalist, just what I like. But the content takes all the attention. Narayanan has done a marvellous job in collecting the pieces and laying out in order for us to enjoy. One will wonder in awe reading the pieces that comes with our great ancient literature.

Bad points

As mentioned in language, some of the pieces are very difficult to understand. It is left for its own interpretation.


I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Aleph Book Company is slowly turning into my favorite publishing house. I could pick up anything from them and read and be assured that I won’t be disappointed.

Whom do I recommend this to

This is for all those who enjoy depth in their literature.

Stories I read for #365stories in from this book

Kailasam by Ambai
Sanatan Choudhari’s Wife by Kamala Das
Smell by Saadat Hasan Manto
Lihaaf by Ismat Chugtai
Three Virgins by Manjula Padmanabhan
The Cure by Ginu Kamani

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH