Friday, April 18, 2008

The great Indian novel

(this post had been created a few months ago, but I’m posting it now)

Title: The great Indian novel
Author: Shashi Tharoor

Publ: Penguin books- 1989
Isbn: 0-14-012049-1

This book reminded me of salman rushdie throughout its entire length, especially his book the satanic verses. They have a lot of similarities. in satanic verses, characters, places and times from various points are morphed with one another. In his book, rushdie has morphed modern India and Britain with the arabia of fourteen hundred years ago; the characters are modern day indo anglian muslims who are morphed with those from islamic history. similarly shashi tharoor in his book has morphed twentieth century british India with the great epic Mahabharata, where bhishma becomes Gandhi, karna becomes jinnah, dhritarashtra becomes Nehru and so on. But the book has failed to bring out the magic one finds in rushdie’s literature. Just the few pages at the beginning of the satanic verses describing vividly the tumbling down of people and things from the India-uk plane bostan which explodes mid air like ‘titbits of tobacco falling down from a broken old cigar’ is enough to have a taste of the quality humor that can emerge only out of rushdie’s pen which this book of hundreds of pages of tiny print tharoor has created has failed to reach anywhere near to. I remember myself literally breaking into peals of laughter while reading the book of rushdie, whereas not even a single instance of the kind happened at any point of reading this massive book by tharoor, although it is supposed to be a humorous book. To create a piece of literature applying the techniques similar to that in the satanic verses, one needs great potential. Rushdie is literally playing with words, with his characters, places and chronology. He makes the most intricate and interestingly complicated jumble of these factors. He takes his protagonists and places and time frames to diverse levels. It is all not in a single plane. And that is his greatness as a writer, whereas shahshi tharoor’s story is too hopelessly linear for a novel of such a design to be a good one. moreover, rushdie’s novel had an aura of abstractness pervading the entire plot, adding further to the wonderfulness of the book, and making it a perfect piece of art, which tharoor’s work totally lacks in.

That said, it will be too rude to go away without telling that tharoor’s mastery of the language and his amazingly rich vocabulary and the refinement in the selection of right words are not in the least inferior to those of rushdie’s. and one more thing: I really love and admire shashi tharoor for the charming personality that he is and that love and admiration have not diminished the least due to this book.

Courtesy: ernakulam public library

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