Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sharad P. Paul, 2007, Cool Cut

Allow me to quote the text on the jacket:"Kumar and Raman are champion kite-flyers, and Lakshmi makes superb burfis. The friends are blessed. They play by the Kaveri River. They learn about life from the peanut-seller. Most of all, they have each other. Then, a small mistake shatters this childhood idyll.

Snaking through the landscape of Tamil Nadu, Cool Cut follows the friends to Madras and into a house of eunuchs. These are shrill times too. Led by a superstar chief minister, MGR, the Tamil people are on the boil. They do not want Hindi. Tamil, after all, is the language of dreams.

In unblinking, lyrical prose, Sharad P. Paul brings alive the fabulous politics of caste, gender and language in south India. But Cool Cut, finally, is a human tale of painful severance and soaring joyful redemption."

That last paragraph? True. Every word. Add sparsely elegant to unblinking lyrical prose. Add a sense of wonder and discovery. The cool juxtaposition of political upheaval and religious magic. This story has magical elements that defy the magical realism genre. There are miracles performed by the gods, no different from the miracle of men who set themselves on fire for their political leaders. The unity or the equality of belief is the underlying motif. The belief in the power of the gods, the eunuchs, the film-star-turned-Chief Minister - one is no stranger or more exotic than the other.

The narrative is congealed sunshine, warm, light, golden and you can look straight into its heart. Well, yeah, it gets syrupy and cloyingly sweet in parts. Just like burfi - the recipe is included after the end note. This book is pure delight.

Allow me another quote from the book:"Kumar says we dream in Tamil because it is a very quiet language. It lingers in the background of our dreams, never threatening to overwhelm our imagination; unlike Hindi. Hindi is noise. Hindi can be used to describe what happens every day, but you cannot dream in Hindi." Ha.

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