Not having read Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla’s first novel Ode to Lata, I approached his second one, The Exiles, with some trepidation. Let me at the outset, quite candidly, place my own prejudices on record: I have, of late, turned a bit wary, if not weary, of reading endless stories of listless exile, especially that of the Indian diaspora.
It is ironic indeed that ‘Woman’s Desire’ has always been a no man’s land, a barbed twilight zone far beyond anyone’s reach. As the prime site of women-centric crimes, woman’s body has been on the focus for the last few decades, but not many have dared navigate into the ‘cora’, the mystique, the semiotics of woman’s fantasy, her instinct to fly beyond borders and boundaries, beyond the narrow confines of a rigid social structure which grants her soul no choice to select ‘her own society’, a ‘home’ or even a ‘room’ of her own.
The title of the ‘novel’ The Man with Enormous Wings arouses a child-like curiosity and expectations of a story that may be built with a rather innocent imagination. But what we experience within the folds of this short novel is an epic tale that presents an anticlimax to what we may have expected.
Wit and irreverence are Farrukh Dhondy’s hallmark, and there is plenty of both in this set of rapid-fire short stories. The seventh commandment deters no one it seems. Man, woman, gigolos, e-mail wallahs and such others find endless opportunities to defy the old dictum ‘Thou shalt not commit…’and happily survive through ‘illicit’ relations.
At the close of River of Smoke, the second novel in Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy, the ex-zamindar Neel Rattan speaks of a painting he acquired on his last visit to Canton. The painting shows Fanqui-town, the site of the Thirteen Hongs or factories set up by foreign traders on the Pearl River in Canton, in flames.
A part from the title and a semblance of the mood, Aamer Hussein’s The Cloud Messenger shares very little else with Kalidasa’s lyric poem of 111 stanzas, Meghadutam. For instance, Hussein’s narrator-hero, Mehran, is no exiled lover. Hussein’s kunstlerroman borrows the lilting romantic tenor of the poetic conceit used by Kalidasa in his sandesa kavya (message/messenger poetry).