Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shalimar The Clown

I don’t know why I have got this knack of reading reviews of books and films and now writing reviews. This is my first book review- another boring article for the one or two people who read this including I.
One of the first books I ever read was ‘Grimus’ by Salman Rushdie. I didn’t know much about him or his ill famous ‘Satanic Verses’ then. And that book went way above my head. So naturally I didn’t like it. Then last year I read ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie and it was one the best books I have ever read and number one on my Must Read list and which deserved Booker of Bookers.Then with great expectations I started reading another book of his- Shalimar the Clown and I liked it a lot. The story is mainly about four characters. Max Ophuls who is a former Ambassador of America to India and who also is a Second World War resistance hero. The second character is Noman Kaul Noman funnily called Shalimar the clown as he is the clown in the play of his community. Then there is Shalimar’s wife Boonyi Kaul Noman and the fourth main character is India, Max’s daughter. Max is murdered by Shalimar and then by a series of flashbacks the story comes back to the present. The murder which at first seems politically motivated turns out to be an intensely personal one. The story is mainly set in a town called Pachigam in Kashmir. Shalimar and Boonyi get married even though they belong to different religions. Max came to visit Kashmir and being a womanizer, he is floored by Boonyi who also feels trapped in her marriage inspite of her love marriage. Boonyi then runs away and has an affair with him. Shalimar then vows to take revenge from both and becomes a ‘jehadi’. The ultimate thing is that a Muslim man murders a Jewish man over a Hindu girl (read this line somewhere).Magical Realism is Rushdie’s forte and again it is par excellence. The way he mingles history and fiction is spectacular. While reading, one realizes how much wealth of knowledge he has. The story is fast paced and travels various places- California, Afghanistan, France, Egypt, Delhi and Kashmir. He does not describe Kashmir’s beauty but the way he describes the tragedy and destruction of Kashmir and its people is heart wrenching. It makes us sympathise with them. The best scenes are in Kashmir itself like there was this passage in which he wrote about the torture inflicted by the terrorists and the Indian Armed forces on the people and instead of names he wrote like X, Y, Z, P ,Q et al and it was one the best passages of the book. The parts about Pachigam and Shirmal fight,the communal harmony, Colonnel Kachhwa, the Gegroo brothers, Noman and Boonyi’s wedding, Nazrebaddor prophecies, Pamposh and Firdaus Noman, references to Mughal-E-Azam, Boonyi’s return are excellent too. The book is a lament on Kashmir. I found the part of Max in Second World War a bit boring though. After reading his books, a great amount of literary satisfaction is achieved which I feel writers like Chetan Bhagat completely lack. His style of writing, his poetry, his art of story telling is all fantastic. The ending is a bit disappointing as it is open to interpretation. The character of Max seems autobiographical just as Salim Sinai of Midnight’s Children. But overall a good book though Midnight’s Children is better I feel that he would never get a Nobel which he totally deserves because no body would like a controversial writer. Anyways, now I have started reading another book of his ‘Shame’ and eagerly waiting for ‘The Enchantress of Florence’.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Loan Waiver : Good or Bad?

Well, after months of speculation and in depth coverage of what the budget will be like, our FM P. Chidambaram unveiled the Union budget on 29th February,2008. The budget is populist, not surprising since this being the last year of UPA government before the next elections which are stated to be held next year. The biggest point of controversy has been the Rs. 60,000 crore loan waiver for the farmers. Almost the entire industry thinks that it is a bad move. I don't know I am confused on this matter. On the one hand it is being said that this will encourage further defaults by farmers in the future and leaves the honest farmer who has paid all his dues look foolish. Moreover, the government has not mentioned from where it is going to fund this. It actually amounts to 15 billion dolllars. And the sixth pay commission whose report will be tabled by 31st March will further add to government burden. So the target of FRBM Act to curtail the fiscal deficit to 3% of the GDP, which the government projects to be about 2.5% will not be met and rise. Moreover, the farmers who are in debt, not all of them have taken credit from the banks but from the moneylenders who charge exorbitantly high rates of interest. So it will mean nothing to them.
On the other hand we have farmer suicides continuing unabated in the country especially Vidarbha. This comes as relief to these farmers.What else can we do immediately to succour them? Is there anything we can do right now to stop this? However, let this be made clear that this is only a one time payment. Also when USA can announce a fiscal package of 150 billion dollars to prevent its economy from a full scale recession due to the subprime crisis, we can also do this to give a boost to the agriculture sector which has become a stumbling block to growth of the economy. Along with that the government should also adopt measures to improve irrigation facilities where the farmers are mostly dependent on vagaries of the monsoon. Let the farmer be given more incentives, for example a higher support price and he be allowed to sell his produce wherever he wants. The government pays about double the amount to import wheat than it does to purchase it from the farmer. Surely it can be more prudent in this regard. In a county where 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture and the gap between Bharat and India Inc. widening, we cannot proceed forward to being a developed nation until all of us grow together i.e. inclusive growth. So, I just hope this works and the next government be formed without the Left support so that the reform process could begin as the Economic Survey 2007-08 states.And also the Indo-US nuclear deal goes through. I seriously hope it does.