Saturday, August 30, 2008

Spell gone awry

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie.

Another vintage novel from Salman Rushdie, written in his unmistakable style. His style has changed over the years, and his last novel Shalimar the Clown, and this one, are definitely in another genre than his earlier books. The narrative style is easier, although the pen is not blunted in any way.

The novel attempts to bring together two different cultures- European and Mughal India in a grand scenario set during Akbar’s time. The European angle definitely overshadows the Mughals, and I thought getting Mughal Emperors in the story line was superfluous. The book stands alone on the Florence tale quite well.

This book is different than the others if only because the protagonist is a woman. The author tries his best to submerge her in the overwhelming personage of kings, emperors, dukes and shahs, but she shines through the veils. It is also the most sexually provocative book of the lot. I think, Salman Rusdie won the worst sex writing award for an earlier novel, but this one is seductive. The love scenes are uninhibited and delicately crafted.

The writing looks cathartic and reflects the end of the author’s marriage. As he admitted in an interview, she ditched him and he had to write to keep his sanity. An outpouring of emotions and a sense of loss is apparent at many places in the book. It is Salman’s most personal and emotional book yet.

The question remains: Is this book strong enough a contender for the Booker.? Without reading any of the others, I would hesitate to make the call. I have doubts though. The book is good, but it is too close to the author’s heart, and maybe that does not make it great.

Odds and Ends

The crossing at the domestic airport really looks busy nowadays. The other day a plane flew overhead, almost touching the car as it landed, while I could see the new Metro taking shape in the distance. All forms of land transport in one shot, would make educating children that much easier. A field trip to the airport would be value for money.

Delhi Chronicles

Cycling Delhi

While rummaging through some old stuff, I stumbled upon a bag which was picked when rambling through Piccadilly Circus. Not that it is a fancy or expensive bag. It was handed out to passers by the London Transport who was espousing the cause of cycling. At that time it looked cool, but after some years in the rubbish heap, it did not look so great. The Cycling London logo still caught my attention. London has this special lane for cycles, and although it is not very broad, it gives enough room for a safe commute. Given London’s high cost of living, it makes sense to use the cycle. What London Transport does to sell the concept of cycling, comes naturally to Delhi-wallahs’s. One can see hordes of cyclists from poorer areas going to work in the morning, and as one passes in a car one does bemoan the traffic problems these can cause. Most of them seek a quiet lane where they do not hinder anybody, which is more for their safety than anything else. The moot point is - why can’t we make a dedicated lane for the cyclists which will take them safely to work, and back? I am sure it will be much easier than implementing the bus corridor, which seems to have left much egg on the politician’s face. The people who use the cycle do not have much of a clout within the corridors of power though.

And what happens if all these people get to buy the Nano, and then take it for a spin? It will be disastrous for the Delhi roads. It is in everybody’s interest that cycling is encouraged as much as possible. If making the roads safer for cyclists can help, we need to do that.

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