Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Book Mark - End Sep 2006

THE ROMANTICS - by Pankaj Mishra

A strange sensation runs you, when you put the book down...You think of Samar, the main protagonist, his dishevelled world,the brahmanised concept of moh-maya and his father's concept of samskara. The absent minded Sadhu sitting smoking pot lost in his void world. As Rajest points out to one of the nervous new entrant to Allahabad Univesity.
I saw him pointing to the empty expanses of sand and srubland across the river. 'That' he was saying, bringing out each Sanskrit and Hindi syllable precisely, 'is sunyata, the void. And this' - he pointed at the teeming conglomoration of temples and houses towards the north of the city - ' is maya, illusion.Do you know what our task is?' The student shook his head. Rajesh continued, ' Our task is to live somewhere in between.'
And then, abruptly he asked, 'Have you read Faiz?' I said I had

Somewhere must be the stars's last halting place
Somewhere the verge of night's slow washing tide
Somewhere an anchorage for ship of heartache

The story canvases across the country, unnamed railway station, his description of the landscape is like a puzzle, continuous caves he comes across - may be konkan area, vivid description of riots due to babri masjid - parts of Karnataka where rath yatra passed through. And finally the journey stoops to a slow motion narrative at Dharamshala.

This visual narrative which is so exquisite, makes me think of Samar, is he so observant or it is just Pankaj talking to you. You sometime start feeling Pankaj is just using Samar as a facade to get through to you. You start doubting the 'intellectual' capabilities of Samar. Catherine, Miss West, Anand, Mark infact all the characters are like mirror to each other, confused in the turmoil of a world. A world which rains down on Samar at the fag end of the novel.

A must read...will make you sit up and think. Is our task to live somewhere in between worth it!!

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