Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri

Title: The Age of Shiva
Author: Manil Suri
Genre: Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 451

1955, India. The political unrest caused by the India-Pakistan partition had barely abated. The country was still recuperating from the loss of hundreds and thousands of Hindus and Muslims who got killed by angry mobs. The lawlessness that prevailed in the country during the Hindu-Muslim riots was seemingly under control, despite the efforts of Hindu and Muslim extremists who were carrying out clandestine operations to implant the seeds of hatred and revenge in people's minds. Thousands of people were still struggling to find abode, after having lost everything.

The story begins around this period when Meera, the protagonist, in her late teens fled Rawalpindi (now part of Pakistan) with her parents and two sisters Roopa and Sharmila. Meera's father had successfully managed to establish a printing business which eventually helped them settle down in Delhi. During her school years, Meera was constantly vying for her parents attention, as they doted on Roopa and swooned and squealed in delight over everything she did. When Roopa fell in love with Dev, a singer from her college, Meera felt it was time to avenge her for all the unfairness she was subjected to. Luck favored her by causing a rift between the lovers and Meera seized the opportunity to marry to Dev, much to her father's disapproval.

While Dev was still heartbroken and sulking about his breakup, Meera struggled to move on with her life. Her mother-in-law's oppressive ways and brother-in-law's covert glances only worsened the situation she found herself in. With her father's help, Meera pulled herself out of this mess, by relocating to Bombay where Dev could pursue his career in music. But, her freedom came at a terrible price. It took more than 5 years for her to finally have her wish fulfilled, to quench her thirst for love. The birth of her son, Ashvin filled the void in her life. She loved him like no mother would love hers. She pampered and protected him from everyone, including Dev. But, where would that blindfolded love lead her? And, what was the price she had to pay then?

The story almost spans over 3 decades and captures all major historic events like the India-Pakistan war, Emergency declared during Indira's period, China war and so on. The writing was so elaborate, painstakingly detailed and exquisitely beautiful. The author shows his adeptness at writing all the way through, but the most astonishing part is the way he has written from the perspective of a female protagonist. Its not easy pulling off something like that and he needs to be applauded for his efforts.

However, the book has many negative characters such as an overbearing father, a haughty sister Roopa, irresponsible husband, drunkard father-in-law, pervert brother-in-law and to top it all a selfish, unforgiving and vulnerable protagonist. I could hardly empathize with any of them and probably that's why I didn't enjoy this book much. Also, the portrayal of a mother's love for her child seems a bit exaggerated, sometimes even unbelievable. To add to that, I wonder how much the snippets from the Hindu mythology would appeal to the western readers either. Compared to his previous novel, this book was a bit of disappointment to me but not quite enough to refrain myself from his future books altogether..

My Rating: 3/5

1 comment:

Diane said...

I have this book on my shelf but have not had a chance to get to it yet.