“Don’t forget love;
it will give you all the madness you need
to unfurl yourself across
That is the opening quote of this novel that I just finished reading and sadly the only words that impressed me through the book. This novel felt like it had been written in a frenzy over a few nights and hardly went through any editing to give you this stereotypical, melodramatic tale. This is the most linear and plot-wise sparse book I have ever read by HarperCollins. My high regard for the quality work by these publishers is over. The reason I borrowed this book from the American Library on my previous visit there(thank my stars I did not purchase this one) was the unusual seeming plot. It was a gay love story set in 1970s Hyderabad India and present-day San Franciso and the author was callled the “crown prince of Gay story-telling in India” by another fellow author. *barf*
I can write pages and pages listing down all the things that I did NOT like about this book (You must be wondering why I did not stop reading the book halfway since i found it so appalling, well I wanted to know how bad can it really get) let me list down instead the few things that did work. The reference to culture and description of Bengali traditions was a sweet touch but maybe because I am Indian too I found the descriptions deliberately injected to fascinate oversees readers maybe and sorely missing a lyrical quality and the eye for detail that engages the reader irrespective of the background they come from.
The subplot of Mallika and Salim’s Hindu-Muslim love story was as cliche as cliche can get (and this coming from a Hindu girl who is about to marry a Muslim boy in India must mean something) Mukherjee has done nothing to break the religious, gender and other cultural stereotypes that exist in our subcontinent and in fact has gone ahead and tried to make a fast buck out of the ignorance that is prevalent. Being an author, I presume comes with its own set of ethical responsibilities, doesn’t it?
This book is easy to read and by that I mean any dumb-ass who can read basic English will be able to easily cruise through this entire novel grasping most of it if not all of it. Now I have nothing against simplicity but when the book seems more and more like an insult to the reader’s imagination and intelligence, there I draw the line.
The adolescent crush references to Rajesh Khanna get so annoying after a point that I skipped paragraphs to protect myself from the crap as much as I respect Khanna sahab and his work, there is something called ‘going overboard’.
The final thing to appreciate is the subject, homosexuality continues to be a taboo subject in India even today with the Supreme Court going back and forth on its decision about decriminalizing homosexuality. Atleast this book can start as a point of discussion.
Final Verdict: I hated it!