biblio-excerptise:   a book unexamined is not worth having


Sarnath Banerjee

Banerjee, Sarnath;


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. ]

Hip and Smart

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


And, of course, it is populated by smart and colourful Delhi (and Kolkata)

 - 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
     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.

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at] 17 Feb 2009