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Crafty Artisans


Charu Sharma

THE DOLLMAKERS' ISLAND
By Anuradha Kumar
Gyaana Books, New Delhi, 2010, pp.240, 225.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 10 OCTOBER 2011

The Past: Radcliffe’s Line Makers on the Dollmakers’ Island’, the title of the first chapter is self evident and spells out the theme of the novel. The plot swings between the past and the present; between history, fantasy and the real, thus making it a surreal satire; and from Ashoka’s times to the contemporary internet age. It is a parable stuffed with a multitude of characters; too many stories; suspense, intrigue and unrequited love; multiple analogies and fecund symbols. The story is neither linear nor final, and therefore creates an uneasiness at all stages, even in comfort zones. Leela, the central character around whom the story and infinite characters of past and present revolve is a mysterious person herself as she is the only woman on the island from where Shyam her lover is supposed to be missing. Leela’s story is 'the present’ but she appears timeless and her constant makeovers, her braids which hold secrets, her actual or pretended loss of voice add to her cryptic personality. It is not easy to decipher her identity. The author self-reflexively through Shyam the playwright reveals that, 'the female presence is more symbolic …. It is part historic, and there are allusions to contem-porary events as well’ (p. 225); and her/his new novel/play, '… will be different. It will make the crowds think’ (p. 222); 'too many characters’ (p. 224); and is, 'a historical farce’(p. 224). Ronen Ghito is the govern-ment’s representative on the island. An island whose 'status remained undecided’ (p. 9) by Radcliffe who had drawn lines defining nations at the time of partition under Mountbatten’s rule. The problem of settling the status of island, the identity of dollmakers’, the unravelling of the secret, the quest to locate loss of voice, ladder and boats, and the silence of Headmen and Mouldi living in their own worlds are the perturbing questions for Ronen Ghito and the reader as well. These are the intentional unwoven threads left loose by the author. No character is well defined. The present refers to Shyam and Leela; and Anon-Webmaster and Jill Hairdresser. Webmaster and Hairdresser are symbols of technology and makeovers. Both are masters at giving new looks. In fact, these four are the dollmakers. Leela and Shyam know that Anon and Jill, 'will set up a new colony of dollmakers, and once more they will thrive’ (p. 238). The other important symbols i.e. ...


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