I finished “The Riot” a couple of weeks back but somehow never get the time to log on to wordpress for the review. But that gave me time to think over and over again about the book before putting my thoughts down in words.
“The Riot” by Shashi Tharoor is the third book by the author that I have read (in addition to umpteen articles and speeches that I have heard of him). Whoever knows me or follows me through my blog knows how big an admirer I am of his work in writing and otherwise. I would even go to the extent of saying that he is one of the politician in India that I really admire and respect.
After I had read and reviewed “The Great Indian Novel” someone suggested that I should read “The Riot” by Tharoor and I had been meaning to do that for sometime and finally got the chance.
Now about the book, “The Riot” is a unique book in itself (so is every book by Shashi, I am beginning to believe that) and to think of it that it was published some 12 years back is incredible and if I hadn’t read “The Great Indian Novel” probably I would have been surprised. But Shashi is different. There is no ‘maturing period’ i with his writing I guess, ever since he has started writing novels his writing has been matured beyond his years. But I digress, so coming back to the book, it’s a unique story, 24 year old Priscilla Hart who is in India to help out with an NGO that works for population control program is murdered in the backdrop of communal killings. Her parents land in India to understand the circumstances that lead to their daughter’s death. The novel is dealt in a different manner, where each character is narrating his or her part of the story and some part of story being carried out through the news articles. There is the collector of the state Laxman, the police chief, the reporter and then Hindu and Muslim leaders fighting for the “Ram Janambhoomi’. Priscilla falls in love with Laxman who is married and wants to settle down with him. But it is not clear who killed her and what was the motive, however everyone forces her parent’s to believe that she has been “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Her parents has their own struggles and memories from earlier trip to India.
Now reading this novel, took me back to the time when “Ram Janambhoomi” issue was so hot. Every sensible Indian would like to forget those times and would consider that instance as a blot on the face of secular India. I was young that time but even then the mark it left on my mind (though I just heard and read through radio, newspapers and few eye witnesses account) . How a bunch of politicians can provoke the innocent citizens to take up arms for all the wrong reasons and sacrifice them at the altar. And the irony is that they still continue to lead the nation or states in some way or another.
This delicate and sensitive topic is so beautifully handled by Tharoor and yet it is so honest that I am totally amazed. It looks like a first hand account by the writer though its not. The circumstances, the feeling among different religious groups that time (even now in some quarters) are so vividly and honestly describe that I don’t think anyone else could have done justice to that topic. And then to mix it with the complexities of Indian and American culture, putting a little love dimension into it and the coke angle, simply brilliant. I can’t conjecture how did he even come up with this plot but then yet again if you have read “The Great Indian Novel” you can expect this work of brilliance from Shashi Tharoor.
The novel is top notch, Shashi Tharoor is remarkable and though it may rekindle the sad old memories of those tough times this is one book I think every Indian should read. Though the protagonist is American this book is much about India and Indians as any other.
Thank you Mr. Shashi Tharoor for bringing us “The Riot”.