December 9, 2022

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Book Review: Manjhi’s Mayhem by Tanuj Solanki

2 min read

Varsha Tiwary reviews Tanuj Solanki’s Manjhi’s Mayhem ( Penguin India, 2022) and calls it a story that openly declares its non-English heart, even if written in English.

“Strangers….so separated by glass and money and language until a few minutes ago that they felt they lived in different worlds altogether, who had no reason, even, to believe that they shared with the other any language of gestures and eye movement and facial expression, for who is to say that a clenched jaw meant the same thing for the rich as it meant for the poor, that a curl of the lip was anger for both men and women, that a shaking leg conveyed, in certain situations, an itching for violence for the educated as well as uneducated, that pointing out a person by the movement of one’s eyes conveyed that you were going to attack him, that moving those eyes immediately to the object you were holding tightly in your hand announced that you were going to use it as a weapon, that swallowing the remaining spit in your mouth was actually you burying all doubt. And yet, there’s a commonality in us humans, that we cannot deny, a sameness that existed before the first word was uttered and that will survive even if all of us turned mute for some reason, a sameness that comes to the surface in times of crisis. We were made to understand each other with or without words.”

In a couple of masterly sentences, Tanuj Solanki captures a sublime moment of wordless communication between a security guard in a café and an upper-class woman who is under attack by three gundas. Catching all-too-human moments underlining people’s similar reactions in crises and their ability to be in tandem with strangers without exchange of words is a recurring theme of Manjhi’s Mayhem.

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