Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Book Review: "Great Indian Novel"

Shashi Tharoor’s debut novel’’’’The Great Indian Novel“ presents a lot of material for many accusations. However from the title to the content you have to be a “proper" Indian down to the last bone in your body, if you’re going to truly appreciate this book. This is a satire and as is the case with such works you have to be an insider, to really “get” the joke.

So with that i would say, the book does bring about a successful marriage between The Mahabharata and Pre-Independence politics. For, the Mahabharata is probably the earliest account of the struggle for power and control.It is the story of the great war of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and the Kauravas- the story of the war to establish the right over the Indian throne.Underlying it is the eternal conflict of Dharma versus Adharma. So on a bigger note, the concept of the book is tough to imagine. Outstanding i should say has been the thoughts behind it's creation.

The author through the voice of Ved Vyas takes us through the major events that shaped India’s destiny in the period that eventually culminated in freedom from the British. The second half of the book deals with the rise(& decay) of independent India & the woman who ruled her. It takes the characters out of the Mahabharata ,paints them with unmistakable traits of modern Indian politicians & in the process,turns both the ancient Indian epic & history on its head.

A Mohandas K Gandhi who stood up for his ideals & for his country was elevated to the status of a Mahatma. However we gloss over the fact that he had his failings. Whether it be eye-brow raising eccentricities like forcing his wife to lie naked next to him as an ultimate test of his self-control or more profound ones like his inability to prevent the partition of India despite his promise never to let that happen. He was only an ordinary man albeit one with extraordinary vision.

Would our history have been different if he had not had to maintain his image? We don't know. The novel makes one think on these lines is what i intended to convey.

Verdict: The marriage was a success, no doubt. But the reader has to put in extra efforts to appreciate the satiric way in which the novel has been narrated. Nevertheless, it gives a great picture of India from behind till date.

Worth a leisure reading when one really feels like contemplating on the two biggest phases of Indian history.


Navin said...

Well, the fact that one had to take some extra effort to understand the book, made me learn some basic facts about the Mahabaratha :) . As for the author's creativity , it is as ( or probably even more difficult) than to have written the Mahabaratha to think of and come up with this book.

Best parallel - Democracy in India as Draupadi being disrobed by Priya Duryodhani (Duryodhana ) !!

pradeep sekhar said...

Yea, i second your opinion on the best parallel thing. The creativity in the comparisons seem to have no bounds. Thats the best part in the book and my verdict goes positive because of these unthinkable comparisons.