Friday, February 10, 2006

Shalimar the Clown

Rushdie’s writings seem to be more like a sleight of hand than a prowess of the mind… the way a magician conjures up rabbits out of hats, so does this author weave yards of magic through the looms of his unchained imagination. When he writes, ideas and stories merge into each other like twirling layers of chocolate in a four-flavor ice-cream.

And in Shalimar the Clown, he is at his best again. The story moves seamlessly from California to Kashmir via France as if Rushdie intends us to catch a non-stop roller coaster across the continents with the glorious scenery unfolding in front of our bewildered eyes.

The lead female character is aptly named “Kashmira”, and the author ensures that her life somehow proceeds in the same disturbing way as the beautiful land from which her name was derived.

The oft-recognized artistic imagery is evident right from the time he starts describing the sun-lit California:
On those rare mornings when she awoke to cloud cover and a hint of moisture in the air she stretched sleepily in bed…
…But the clouds invariably burned off by noon and then there it was again, the dishonest nursery blue of the sky that made the world look childlike and pure, the loud impolite orb blaring at her like a man laughing too loudly in a restaurant

And then the truth about broken dreams in this promised land:
The beautiful came to this city in huge pathetic herds, to suffer, to be humiliated, to see the powerful currency of their beauty devalued like the Russian ruble or Argentine peso…

On the other hand, the disturbing reality of Kashmir could perhaps not have been depicted in better words than these:
Who raped that lazy-eyed woman?
Who raped that grey-haired lazy-eyed woman as she screamed about snake vengeance?
Who raped that woman again?
Who raped that woman again?
Who raped that woman again?
Who raped that dead woman?
Who raped that dead woman again?

Nothing but a series of questions that jump out at you from the pages, and the beauty of it all lies in the fact that these are questions no one wants to face.

That’s Shalimar the Clown for you.

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