In The Eye Of a Storm

Riot by Shashi Tharoor

Twenty-year-old American Priscilla Hart is killed, along with 8 Indians, in a Hindu-Muslim riot in Zalilgarh, east of Delhi. Or so we think. The novel is set in India, in the very turbulent late 1980s, where Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid were often-heard words. This hamlet is a typical Indian gaon, and the site of much hatred and violence in the novel.

V. Lakshman (Lucky, to Priscilla) and Priscilla herself are the protagonists, with Priscilla’s parents – Katherine and Rudyard – enjoying a lot of important mention in the novel. Priscilla’s parents themselves have an Indian connection. A disturbing adulterous connection that Priscilla witnessed. That was when Rudy worked for Coca Cola in India. Lucky describes himself a “overworked, overweight and married”. And these features do not stop Priscilla from falling in love with him. Their frequent trysts leave people in suspicion: his wife Geetha, Priscilla’s co-worker and a handful of right-wingers.

Tharoor has split the novel into different chapters, each spanning half a page to up to two or three pages. The sections are easy-to-read conversations, narratives, diary entries, interviews and observations. Tharoor’s choice of words is interesting – it has a mix of raw sensuality and a definitive search within people’s minds.

Tharoor brings into light important questions and thoughts such as, What is it like to be Indian?, How are Muslims treated in India?, cross-cultural relations, family issues that are being faced by the illeterate village women, and so on. Tharoor has used people from various religions and communities to explain the larger questions of their particular religions: A bad-mouthing Sikh police inspector Guru, a Muslim mother of seven, who is severely abused by her husband, the extreme right-wing leader Ram Charan Gupta and Randy Diggs, the New York Journal journalist who is investigating Priscilla’s death.

Verdict: The reader is left to make whole the ending of the novel, with a variety of possible endings. Gripping read.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 at 5:58 pm and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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