Penguin Books, 2005, 112 pages
ISBN 0143031384, 9780143031383
topics: | graphic-novel | india | delhi
A smart, postmodern (=disjointed) story. The images are also smart: As the city is stretching awake, we are treated to morning scenes from Delhi, all from the viewpoint of a car parked in front of a Mother Dairy booth with its typical numeral design (wonder where "002" is!). 1. elderly men shopping (bengali? chitpark?) 2. schoolkids waiting for bus, 3. municipal sweeper, 4. exercise-walking man 5. vegetable ThelA-man shouting his wares 6. commuter scootering to work. [Disclosure: Sarnath was a friend of my youngest brother, Atish, while they were studying at Deshbandhu College. I vaguely remember him coming home while they were editing some magazines. ]
The story is smart, the dialogues are smart, the text is pithy and smart: Connaught place is primarily about corridors and pillars. One such corridor belongs to Jehangir Rangoonwalla, the Cyrus of second-hand books.
And, of course, it is populated by smart and colourful Delhi (and Kolkata) characters. - Brighu Sen, main protagonist. Obsessive collector of old records and phantom comics. Sometimes spends afternoons examining his toes and talking to Gustav the lizard. lover of Kali, and unsure of wanting other women. He quotes Jean Baudrillard and meets strangers on trains - Jehangir Rangoonwalla, sells used books at a Connaught place footpath, likes talking about his Mumbai epiphany over tea with customers: "Here I am in Delhi, the spiritual centre of N India, selling Ikea catalogues. No need to go out and seek the universe" - Digital Datta, C++ programmer torn between Karl Marx and H1-B visa, who reads everything and can become anything inside his head. - Shintu Sarkar, good bengali boy; on his marriage day he plays scrabble with Dolly. Then, after watching a blue film star, he worries if he's ejaculating prematurely; his visits to various hakims in Old Delhi provide a good bit of the side-drama. Eventually, he buys "sande-kA-tel" (made froom rare lizards) and his performance improves to the point that Dolly is left dazed every morning.... except that his oil has been mixed up by the maid... - Kali - budding film-maker, Brighu's friend and live-in lover. Individually, they are "nice and sensitive, but together they are like Bonnie and Clyde." - Gauri - also Brighu's friend and maybe more... - Dr. DVD Murthy, forensic professor at Safdarjung and pot-addict. He spouts poetry by day and dissects corpses by night. His family is tired of his formaldehyde smell. Many of these stories run on parallel tracks - many characters never meet; it is only their purchases at Rangoonwalla that holds them in the story.
Some of the text is in devnagari, and it is quite funny, but presented without translation. In the context of Shintu's sexual problems, a man is shouting advertisements for a hakim called Sultan Palangtod ("Sultan Bed-breaker"): Aj lagAo ek inch lambA kal lagAo do inch lambA parso lagAo bijli ka khAmbA (p. 75) [today - an one inch roll tomorrow two inches in the hole day after, an electric pole] Brighu is an inveterate collector - books, old records and comics: Jean Baudrillard: Yes, the collector. He regresses to the anal phase - expressed by accumulation and retention. His passion is not for possessing objects themselves but stems from his fanaticism for an illusory wholeness-for completeing the set. But really he is trying to re-collect himself. And if he gets the last object in the collection, he is effectively signifying his own death.