Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shalimar from Rushdie...

Have you read 'Midnight's Children' by Salman Rushdie?

I did. A few years back. Didn't get it. And consequently relegated Salman Rushdie as a writer who I would always deride and not recommend to anyone. Not that my non-recommendation had any great effect on his fan following. He still managed to date (and marry?) Padmalaxmi, a lady with her name as the only problem in her life. Oh, and a fascination for older gentlemen.

But recently I picked up 'Shalimar the Clown' by Mr. Rushdie from the library.

Aside: I'm in two minds about using the library now. I mean, it does give me the option of exploring new authors and I've certainly come across a few gems just because I could just borrow the book instead of buying it. But the downside is that I don't have any of these great books in my own collection. I don't have an option of picking up the book and re-reading it whenever I feel like it.
I don't have the option of smiling at my books, smelling them and just being happy to hold the book. These thoughts came upon me when I was setting up my book collection in the new apartment I've moved into. My collection looks fairly juvenile and is not really representative of the kind of books I like reading.
I probably need a middle path in which I buy some books while at the same time keeping the library option for more experimentation.

Coming back to Shalimar the Clown, I loved it. It was beautifully written and there were so many interpretations to the various story lines. And the mastery with which language has been used in the book is really really captivating. It is a great book to read, if only for some passages that border on the poetic. Passages that make you close the book, lean back and think.

The book takes a very personal story and juxtaposes it on historic events (I seem to like such books the most. Big events through the eyes of common people. Events brought home to the people, mostly reluctantly, because of their subtle (and progressively less subtle) impact on regular life and its meaning)

In this book the beginning of organised terrorism and the consequent (some would say politically opportunistic)intrusion of the army in Kashmir forms the backdrop to an intensely personal tale of innocence, love, ambition, betrayal, despair, anger, hatred, revenge, uprooting and angst. A beautiful book in which the characters are well etched and can be equated to many players of the larger backdrop.

For me, the way the people changed the way they looked at and thought of 'Kashmiriyat' over the course of the story was fascinating.

A book meant to be in your collection, to be savoured on many occasions...

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