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Caught in a Web of Action and Reaction

G.J.V. Prasad

By David Davidar
Penguin, Delhi, 2007, pp. 244, Rs. 495.00


You have to be a reviewer to read this book to the end, and a conscientious one at that! David Davidar has come up with one of the more tedious Indian English novels, one that does not reward the reader with new insights or the pleasure of enjoying accomplished use of language but perhaps affords only with a sense of virtue that one has actually read a book from beginning to end even though it has only very very occasional sparks—it is only sometimes that the language works, only sometimes that you think that the book may contain anything at all (only to be disappointed).   Of course David Davidar is a good man, with his heart in the right place (left of centre). This is a book about secularism, about individuals caught in webs of action and reaction, about communal strife, about the seemingly small nature of most of our lives, about love, about violence, about self-fashioning, retreat, and corruption. It is about escaping small town India and India itself. It is a novel about the essential solitude of our lives. It is a novel about important things, a novel full of good intentions. It is a novel that will prove to be a godsend to poco researchers. It is a novel that proves that it is only good writing skills that can redeem a work of literature, save it from its motivations.   Vijay, the narrator of the work, has a story to recount about a marathon runner who trained so hard that he developed fantastic stamina but lacked the kick at the end to win races. Reading this novel is like watching a marathon runner practising alone, running kilometre after kilometre, with great determination and no competition, the only tension or drama being in our ability to keep track of his progress, to stay with him in his feat of endurance. I must say I passed the test but not many will.   This is a story about how a small town boy from Tamil Nadu makes it to Mumbai to work for a journal called The Indian Secularist, run by an idealistic Rustom Sorabjee. This is just before the destruction of the Babri Masjid and Vijay is witness to the riots that followed it as well as the bomb blasts. He is injured badly when a goon hits him on the head and it is perhaps to help ...

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