Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Death of Vishnu

Title: The Death of Vishnu
Author: Manil Suri
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 295
Edition: Paperback
Accolade: 2002 Pen/Faulkner Nominee

Manil Suri's latest novel 'The Age of Shiva' is due out in February, 2008. As I await to lay my hands on his new book, I decided to read first his much acclaimed debut novel 'The Death of Vishnu'. In this charmingly funny novel, Suri invites you to meet some very interesting characters living in a 3-storied apartment building in Bombay.

Mrs. Asrani and Mrs. Pathak are neighbors. Not the friendly, harmonious type, but the war-mongering kind. They squabble over frivolous matters and a sense of hatred for each other runs in their blood. To top it all, they had to share a kitchen on the first floor.

Mrs. Jalal, a devoted muslim lives upstairs with her husband and son Salim. Mr.Jalal is propelled by the quest of enlightenment and his eccentric behavior drives his wife crazy.

Kavita (Mrs. Asrani's daughter) and Salim (Mrs. Jalal's son) love each other and they meet clandestinely on the terrace often.

Vinod, a reclusive man, lives on the second floor. He depends on his hard-earned money as a banker, a flat he now lives and the food brought over by his servant everyday for his sustenance. All cooped up in his flat, he whiles away his time, lying in bed grieving over his wife's death.

The story begins with Vishnu, an odd-job man who lives on the landing, lying motionless on the verge of death. The stale chappatis brought over by Mrs. Pathak and the watered-down tea from Mrs. Asrani's house stay untouched, as Vishnu daydreams about his childhood days and a love affair with Padmini, a prostitute. His health is deteriorating but, life goes on around him and the apartment dwellers seem oblivious to his physical condition.

One night Jalal, driven by his quest for wisdom, decides to sleep next to Vishnu on the landing. He has a strange dream where Vishnu, the drunkard, is 'Lord Vishnu', the god and he himself the prophet. Next day, Ganga, the servant, finds Jalal asleep on the landing with a dupatta wrapped around his head. Also, Kavita and Salim had eloped the previous night. Despite the hullabaloo about the missing lovers and the mysterious dupatta wrapped on Jalal's head that night, Jalal continues to rant about his strange vision and why everyone should worship Vishnu, the drunkard. But, Where would all this lead him?

No major story plots or anything here. But, Suri makes it up to you with his engaging characters, vivid narration and an interesting prose that might tickle your funny bone at times. I found myself racing through the pages and thought it was a good read overall.

Author's Note: Manil Suri got his inspiration for the central character of this novel from a man named Vishnu who lived on the steps of the apartment building in which he grew up. Apparently, he died on the same landing he occupied for many years.

My Rating: 3.8/5

7 comments:

Morpheus said...

Nice blog here..I liked Death of Vishnu..the start was a bit slow..but it builds up well..

Happy Reader said...

Thanks for stopping by! You have an amazing photo blog! I loved it!!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Chitts!

I read this one a while back and I enjoyed it because it brought back so many memories of Bombay (the city I grew up in) and also many of the characters were quite memorable. I also found that I learned quite a bit of Hindu mythology from the read.

I now have his new one "THe Age of Shiva" ( I guess the next one will have to do with Brahma?) and, like you, I can't wait to get started! If we read it around the same time it will be fun to compare notes!

Happy Reader said...

@Lotus~Welcome back!! So Glad to see you :) I borrowed a copy of "Age of shiva" from the library and I'm not sure if I will get to it, as work consumes most of my time now..And as for the title goes, I'm thinking somewhere along the lines of 'Life of Brahma' may be ;)

Lotus Reads said...

"Life of Brahma" is a great title! Mr. Suri, are you listening? :)

I just finished reading "The Age of Shiva"...I loved it...I had a few(just a very few) quibbles with it, but on the whole it's a very good book...I actually preferred it to "Death of Vishnu".

Happy Reader said...

@Lotus - Oh, did you find his new book interesting! I am so looking fwd to your post on it! I'll definitely get to it at some point.

Simran said...

heyy this sounds like areally good book.. must read it..
But i must share what i've loved reading most recently. Its the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. The author's imagination and creativity never cease to amaze me. Although most might think that they are for children,I think most adults would also enjoy reading them. In fact, Disney is coming up with the latest Narnia movie-Prince Caspian, this May 16th. It promises to be awesome by the looks of the trailor. I think its very well-timed also, especially for the kids who'd be on summer break. So dont miss it!