Saturday, February 18, 2012

Riot, A Novel

The death of an american women, Priscilla Hart, serves the pretext of Shashi Tharoor's 2001 novel, "Riot, A Novel". Of the many things that is good about this novel, the first and the foremost is the fact that its written by Tharoor. A thoughtful, sociologically precise novel that not only brings with it a great flavour of Indian social stratification, the religionism, the conservativeness of a small Indian town, but also manages to present the very Indianness that lies at the heart of a middle class Indian society. Tharoor holds a grip over this very Indianness and continues to show his great understanding that he has on India,  its people and their mindset.
In September, 1989, a 24 yr old american, Priscilla Hart, working with an NGO, is stabbed to death in a riot that erupts in the town of Zalilgarh near New Delhi. Priscilla's divorced parents, Katherine and Rudyard Hart, then visit the town to find out what happened and in the course of their stay at the town meet all the people associated directly and indirectly to her. They meet and talk to everybody and try to learn the conditions in which their daughter was living in there and also the one in which she was murdered. A mystery in itself, the reason of the murder is not told till the end and leaves the reader with so many possibilities. A story that deals with love-hate, social norms, communal riot, political issues all at the same time gives everything of these one or more reasons for Priscilla's death.
Riot comes out as a novel knit with the threads of completely different contexts. The writing of the novel is unique in its own sense. So far, I have not read many novels but I am very sure that there will be, if any, very few novels written in that style. It starts with the newspaper cuttings of The NewYork Journal about Priscilla's death and the news of her parents visiting Zalilgarh a few weeks after. And then follows a mixture of too many accounts of all the characters involved in the story without much regard to the timeline. The story goes into flashback, comes back to real time, then again goes further back and keeps on jumping time all through. A total story of around a year being presented in a screenplay style was something different to me but without doubt interesting.
The last time that I was reading Tharoor was his first novel, The Great Indian Novel. Sadly, I could not finish the major part of it, still, whatever I did, I was too much involved in it and liked it. His understanding of the Indian culture and tradition was pretty much evident in that book and so came the anticipation of a similar understanding in this book also. I must admit the fact that this book managed to fulfill my anticipation and I am pretty much content by with this one too. All in all, if not a great book, it surely is a readable book at least.


Shalu Sharma said...

Seems like a good novel. Shashi Tharoor is a good writer.

Aashu said...

@shalu: Ya! he really is and also the novel. A completely different one as far as the writing style goes. Will seem to you as if you are reading about a real time event. Worth reading!