Reached the end of the “River” and what a beautiful and rewarding journey it was. It’s arguably Amitav Ghosh’finest novel yet and I ungrudgingly take back all the criticisms and reservations heaped on him in my earlier blogs (Click here to read). Though billed as the second part of the trilogy – the narrative sails on its own and the threads linking it with the Ibis (Sea of Poppies) are at best tenuous. Here, the historical backdrop – is not like
a cloak sitting heavily on the story, but - acquires a life of its own as Ghosh, the master of minutiae, paints the canvas with every little detail of a Chinese scroll painting. Unlike some of his previous works – Ghosh doesn’t challenge or intimidate his readers – instead transports them to a charming old world, as if after a few draughts of that magical smoke. The historical details – such as Bahram’s chance encounter with Napoleon - yes, as in Bonaparte – in St Helena does not distract. And, the parallel tale of Paulette and Fitcher Penrose on the Red Ruth
– in search of the elusive Chinese Camellia is beautifully woven into the main plot – probably leaving a
trail to be picked up in the final part of the trilogy. A must read for everyone – even if one had missed The Sea of Poppies.
But, the book I am enjoying immensely is the Political Biography of Mayawati by the journalist Ajoy Bose. I had resisted it for a long time – probably because of my innate prejudice for the subject. But, on my couple of recent trips to Lucknow – I couldn’t help but being impressed by transformation she has wrought to the city. At the risk of being scoffed at by my more evolved friends – I have no qualms in admitting, I found grandeur, vision and aesthetic taste in what had been described as grotesque display of megalomania. Undoubtedly very deep and astute thi
Any future regime thinking of destroying them – would have to do so at their own peril and no naming any number of roads, bridges, airports, educational institutions, hospitals or other centres after members of one ‘family’ - can outdo these gigantic feats of architecture. In any case, it is better than the stadium I believe Mulayam Singh had built in his constituency – which is now a public cattle grazing ground.
My only worry is – after 400 years when future generations of archaeologists excavate the ruins of the Maya Age of Modern India and unearth the great Behenjis statues – they might mistake her handbags to be the fashion statement of our times.