When I was asked to review Rajat Das’ debut novel (Paper Boat, Flame of the Forest) I approached the offer with skepticism. Why? I had little experience of reading a novel as long as 800 pages. Believe me, I have considered Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy many times in libraries and bookstores but that novel’s heft has always come in the way of my reading pleasure (and I prefer doorstoppers from Ikea). Man, don’t get me wrong. I love Seth, I love that Golden Gate man. What a charming writer! But I am happy having read his From Heaven Lake.

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‘Kaaba’

Zuleikha glanced both ways. It were as though she were commencing a Muslim prayer, a namaaz, which back in the cold rain of Glasgow, would have been normal, routine, even, but which here, in this assertively Roman Catholic country, seemed almost blasphemous. She tried to conjure up the face of her son, Daoud, but could not. She sprang up, tried to breathe. Zuleikha was a scientist, not a penitent.

As soon as she emerged into the room, she realized that the structure down which she had been descending was neither a well nor a tower, but an enormous chimney whose upper portion had been removed and on whose hearth she had been standing. She brushed her clothes down as well as she could. She was in a small, low-ceiling’d room whose walls seemed to have been whitewashed fairly recently.

crastaAmong the bunch of famous Indian novelists and writers, Richard Crasta‘s name might not be as widely recognized as that of a Seth or a Rushdie, but few would come close to him in being funny, witty, satirical and daring–all at the same time. If you don’t believe me, I can get American legendary novelist Kurt Vonnegut to  vouch for him who found his first novel, The Revised Kama Sutra, “very funny”.  After Khushwant Singh (who is 90 plus old but still active as a below the belt heavy hitter), if any Indian writer has pushed the boundaries of satirical writing, with dollops of sexual humour (and satirical writing on a lot of other serious stuff) in his own distinctive style, it’s Richard. But, in fairness, his writing is more than that, and multifaceted, covering areas as wide as, in his own words, “autobiography, humor, satire, political critique, sexual critique, and literary criticism.”