Friday, March 21, 2008

Taslima Nasreen leaves India

Taslima had to leave under intense pressure from Govt of India. Of course, Pranab Mukherjee and his cronies (Buddhadeb being one of them) are gloating over it, but in a poem, just before departure, Taslima, in her true- to- herself form, lambasts “secular” India for kowtowing to Muslim fundamentalists just for vote-politics.

Personally I’m happy that her ordeal is somehow over, and she has found freedom once again, though in a land where few people talk her mother tongue (this is an important issue with her, and something cardinal to choosing her place of living). She can now breathe in freely in open space and take care of her failing health – especially her retinopathy.

Taslima still has an illusion: she hopes to come back to India in August.

Why India again, Taslima? Have you not had enough of it in terms of its hypocrisy, double talk, and persecution mentality?

Do you think India would welcome you back ? Ever?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Rushdie as Novelist

Is Salman Rushdie spent as a novelist? There is speculation about it, but on reading “Shalimar, the Clown”, I strongly feel he’s not. Not yet at least. The creator of “Midnight’s Children” can still deliver.

His earlier novel, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” disappointed me. But this time I loved the prose, voice, theme and even the drama of the novel. I enjoyed every bit of Shalimar.

The novel is full of interesting characters based in different junctions of history, politics and places across the glove. You can love them, hate them, and even have mixed feelings about them, but what ultimately emerges in the narrative is a chronicle of our times.

Terrorism is the theme of the novel, but it has that Rushdiesque property to it. The storyline is simplistic: Noman, a simple, happy-go-lucky Kashmiri youth converts to a terrorist to take revenge against Max Ophuls, the American Ambassador, who seduced his ravishingly beautiful dancer-wife Boonyi while visiting Kashmir, and even fathered a daughter by her named Kasmira. To fulfill his mission, he traverses across many countries and terrorist outfits to reach Max. He kills Max while serving as his driver, and then goes on to kill his wife, by then a wretched woman dumped by Max. At the end, two characters remain: Norman and Kashmira. Rushdie builds up a great drama about them in the last chapter.

But this is the surface of the story. At its core there is a different and poignant sub-text. As you go through the novel, you feel it in the gut that a state sinks and gets ravaged by both terrorists and the Indian army without any check whatsoever, secularism gives way to fundamentalism, riots lead to mass exodus, and hapless people writhe under new waves of assault, brutality and dehumanization, and are stripped of innate human values culture and heritage along the way. What prevails is politics, the ugly politics – both Indian and international variety.

Expectedly, Rushdie writes scathingly, without fear, against the state, system and the powers-that-be. Sometimes, it reads like a non-fiction. But it is great fiction in conception and treatment. Shalimar, the Clown is easily his best novel after Midnight’s Children.

I’ve not read such a good novel in a long time.

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