Ashok’s vision of grandeur was based on thinking himself of being an outsider to his world. He was unable to distinguish himself from it but by holding it in utter contempt, however. But there was nowhere else to go to.
‘I was intrigued by his views of European and American culture.’
‘A fantastic novel that will keep the reader glued to the pages.’
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The Royal Enigma
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The legend of Ram is familiar to most Hindus. The story of Ram is a philosophy of life which could lead one to live a fulfilling life. It is about doing one’s duty to one’s family, country and the people. An abiding sense of duty and a zeal to live up to it through every thought and action is something which people are expected to do. As only it may lead to the creation of a just world where peace prevails lastingly. This is what most people expect of their life: fairness, peace and harmony.
But there are forces constantly working against the wishes of the majority and disrupt their dreams. In earlier times this tendency was called ‘Rakshyas’ tendency. It is present from a family to the national level. The endeavour of Ram is to identify, circumscribe and deal with it to protect and further the divine or ‘daiviya’ tendency. It is a long battle consuming one’s whole life and energy. Also, it is a larger battle to fight alone. An alliance of suitable people has to be created therefore.
So it is a work of creating fine strategies to deal with the threats trying to destroy the peace of the country and finally bring it to subjugation. This life mission of Ram is described several times by various great poets and writers before. It is a part of folklore which is repeated in every Hindu household since time immemorial.
Yugal Joshi has done well to publish a book which retells this familiar story from a different perspective: He has dealt with it more pragmatically. He has tried to see the motives of the characters from a more humane angle instead of making them a mystery. In doing so he remarkably brings a new credence to the whole story by making it look far more modern. It is no more a divine story of Lord Rama in this book, but a story of a young Prince who wants to do good to his people but finds millions obstacles in his efforts to do so. And they begin from his home and continue to deter him all his life. But he never gives up and surmounts all the difficulties to establish ‘Ramrajya’ or the ideal governance.
Ram’s insights into the life and the people look far more plausible for he rationally explains them. So instead of being a mythological and religious narrative this book becomes something more : a very realistic explanation of politics and economics of life which is ever relevant. So one may not have to necessarily resort to faith only, for the intellectual queries coming to the mind of a reader while reading this book are adequately satisfied by the writer.
Besides Joshi brings to light so many characters of the story which are nearly forgotten by the people in most cases. Their inclusion imparts more colour and credibility to the story. It also reflects the amount of research the author has done to accomplish this feat which is by means mean.
His descriptions of the time and people so ancient are fascinating. The grandeur of Ayodhya and the royal palace of Dasrath are wonderful besides his depictions of the war Ram fights with Rakshyasas. Also, he has dealt with a great tenderness with the intimate life of Ram. Joshi has dealt also with ‘kuber': the god of wealth, who, like the modern day bankers, only tries to work at cross purpose of Ram’s effort to bring about a Ramrajya.
This book is unique in many ways and a devotional heart could only have accomplished writing it with a scope so wide. It deserves a read even from the very skeptical or inquisitive minds.
The writer has laboured much to bring out the biography of a writer who has written autobiographical fiction besides his travel books all his life. Naipaul seem to have always lived a life of poverty, as given in this book too. He is often bailed out by BBC or other British institution when he was about to sink financially, once he is out of Oxford. Spendthrift and whore-monger, he is in trouble perpetually. So he worked in close association with British establishment, it also seems.
Very often he meets good Samaritans in Britain or elsewhere, who pay him in advance to write about Argentine, just before the Falkland war; for an example. And he finds all the connections there to guide him besides a free accommodation and a lover as well. And he does a kind of writing which rubbishes every place he goes to and celebrates the Britain and British.
The Sepoy mutiny of India, which terrorised colonials for nearly a century until they left India in 1947, as noted by E M Forster in 1917 in “A PASSAGE TO INDIA'; Naipaul describes as the proof of British resistance.
In the Islamic journeys he became more notorious to see a war of religion in the days coming. It was a time when USSR troops occupied Afghanistan and CIA was building Mujjahiddins to fight them and Iranian revolution has taken place. The clash of civilization and settling the score of history is an old theme. The British establishment wanted that kind of books from him at that time. And he wrote what was expected of him. Now the world is only blaming Tony Blair for the war against terrorism which is going wrong and which is looking to escalate by the day.
What is really astonishing is, never in this book, Patrick French questions the motives of Naipaul to do this kind of writing after beginning with an innocuous book like Miguel street. Also, he celebrates the Booker prize ‘In a free state’ won, which is a collection of very ordinary stories, later rejected by all the British editors who read it without the name of Naipaul and its title. But questioning the genius of Naipaul might bring the question about writing his biography as well.
So Naipaul, with his average talent and much ambition, played into the hands of the vested interests.
His writing was not appreciated much by wider audience except for his earliest work. But he found a strong supporter in the British establishment and went on to write the things which see a clash of civilization and a larger war. Time and again Naipaul has felt exasperation for not having become enough British in his work. Paul Theroux mentions him calling the Dutch ‘the potato eaters’.
Understandably, writing life is hard and penurious. And Naipaul minds rendering any other service besides producing words. This is a great weakness in a writer, for it spares him or her the banality of daily life and taking part in activities of the life which reveals a great deal about the people and the society. Without knowing them first hand, and writing out of rage and anger will produce a work which tries to contemplate a war of civilization. Also it calls for financial troubles, which will cripple the independence of the work.
His British wife works hard to make connection with upper class British people, who will bail out them often. So a very unlikely literary career becomes viable.
Naipaul says he is a man of the new world. He has no clue of the rise of China, however, anywhere in his work, which has over taken the USA as the largest economy of the world. And Nobel Academy mentioned his ‘prophetic journalism’ to award him with one. So the failings are multiple, of Naipaul and the world.
The impression one gets from this book is that the myth called Naipaul was the best writer of the last century, though he also was the most despicable man who ever moved on this earth. Both these assumptions have been actively promoted by certain people all these years.
Literature at times no more remains an intellectual quest to find the larger truth. It often reduces to become an exercise like the faked orgasm of a prostitute simulated to satisfy the worst sexual anxieties of a wealthy customer.
The question comes to mind who this soft-spoken and erudite writer is. He is an aspiring British politician who belongs to an extreme right-wing party. It reduces greatly his risks as a writer, besides elucidating a lot about his subject matter and his writing in this book.
A writer is what he is; the world is ever shifting, therefore.
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Pooping poetess returns, through Danish embassy this time.
It was a bad year. I expect the worse ahead. Sharing optimism will be too common, as there is no basis for it. It is not a protest hopefully. For it was bad for not a source outside.
Which was the one for you? The Reason?
‘Poetry is like pooping. If it is in you it will come out’, said a young American poetess to an adulatory Nepalese audience at American embassy here a few years ago. A graduate of creative writing from an American university, she was promoting the course here among the wannabe Nepalese youth with some cash in their pockets. She was wearing a low cut blouse and a skirt. Her words ring often in my ears and make me shiver.
The writer is what he is. Is he the best British? Writing life is immoral and unprincipled, one might think. The only validity could be the quality of work a writer produces. So back to my question.