Friday, November 25, 2005

Riot - Shashi Tharoor

The characters in this book are all as two dimensional as the paper that riot is printed on. The divorced non Indian couple, the foreign social worker who has an affair with the Indian, the smart south Indian, his repressed wife and aiyo, the hindu communalist, the muslim who forces his children on his wife, the hard drinking swearing surd well you get the picture. The telling of the story from various point of views is also not that innovative, well not really the same story since each point of view progresses the story rather than looking at the same item from a different point of view. The story is also told in a slightly non linear fashion with two timelines being followed. What saves this book however is that the writing is quite good and full of some memorable quotes (A large percentage from Oscar Wilde) and has a lot of themes regarding India that the author will return to in his later writing, notably in India from Midnight to the Millennium
It concerns the pointless death of a foreign woman social worker killed during a Hindu Muslim Riot during the Ram Janmabhoomi foolishness. And her parents journey to find out more about the circumstances in which their daughter died and the work she was doing. Adding to this cast of characters is the IAS officer the woman is having an affair with , his wife and daughter, his Punjabi Police Inspector friend -whose English abuses seem out of place. Would any self respecting sardar say sisterloving or ban****?
And other sundry characters involved in the riot.
Tharoor also tries to highlight the complex issues that India faced and still faces over the babri masjid issue. But people like me who have already formed their opinions about this matter are unlikely to change their opinions (the people of both communities who participated in the reprehensible acts are a bunch of fools and bastards. At least the politicians had an excuse they did it for votes.)
Tharoor can’t resist mentioning to of his pet topics, the greatness of St Stephens college (which of course cant compare to St Stanislaus even though the latter is just a school) and The Great Indian Novel.
Tharoors writing is of course quite good and that makes this book a worthwhile read

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