Saturday, February 26, 2005

Tamas - Bhisham Sahni

The reason i wanted to read this book , was because the TV series by Govind Nihalani was as far as i can remember gripping and shocking. Though i now remember none of it,except that Om Puri acted well. And you could say that of most of Om Puris movies be it Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro , Ardh Satya or Bollywood Calling. But this isn't about Om Puri.
Tamas is set in the riots of 1947 and are based on true accounts that the author has witnessed in Rawalpindi. It has a multitude of characters all of whom are equally important to the story and perhaps equally insignificant because the topic the author tackles is no easy one.
It begins with a sweeper Nathu being fooled into killing a pig which is subsequently dumped onto the steps of a mosque. This leads to a rapid polarisation within the communities and the 'I want to live in peace but if they do anything then i will retaliate in kind' attitude. The situation worsens by wild rumors , some killings,looting and everything else that we can see repeated these days.
The book shows the inability of even the well meaning politicians to come to an understanding. The apathy of the people in power (then the British but which applies for the riots today as well).
There are no politicians , criminals or British that you could blame these riots on though these characters are of course present. The villains(if you could call them that) are the common people.
The striking feature is that the story is authentic. Loose ends are left untied and you do not know how the lives of the people continued. There are no moral judgments to be found here.

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