Book Launch : Arrack In The Afternoon by Mathew Menacherry

Looking forward to the release of my friend, Mathew Menacherry's book; Arrack In The Afternoon. Here's the synopsis;

Arrack in the Afternoon is a satire set in modern-day Mumbai, which deals with one man’s search for meaning and fulfilment, and how this is subverted by the mores and rigors of the metropolis, the metaphoric “Big City” in which he lives.

The protagonist, Verghese Konnikara, is the quintessential loser, a chronically depressed alcoholic, who decides one day to end it all by throwing himself under a truck on the highway.

Fate however and his own lack of resolve conspire to save him, and then, following a convoluted series of events, he finds himself cast in the role of a godman, a new-age spiritualist who is avidly sought after by some of the most powerful people in the country.

Other characters in the novel include Patricia Murphy, Verghese’s Indo-Irish girlfriend who owns the liquor adda that he frequents, Pillaichan, an ex-commie turned petite bourgeois and Verghese’s closest friend, and Karan Sarin, former pimp turned porn film producer who sees Verghese as an easy means to wealth and power.

The book traces a lurid path through the underbelly of the metropolis and delves into the phenomenon of instant fame, which is now such an integral part of our celebrity culture.

If you'd like to take a peek, check out chapter one.

It's set in Mumbai, so its a definite buy for me! And knowing Mathew, I'm sure its going to be a highly entertaining read.

Curfewed Night : Basharat Peer

I have just finished reading Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer. As stated by Khushwant Singh on the jacket of the book, I agree that it is beautifully written, brutally honest and deeply hurtful. It brings out the tragedy Kashmir is going through in sharp relief. The author is honest enough not to suggest any off the cuff solution to the complicated situation on the ground in Kashmir.

I have no problems with what Mr.Peer has written. Where I differ with him is in what he has left out. He has not stated why Kashmir has always refused to integrate with the rest of the country. The only reason I can see is that the valley was predominantly Muslim and was kept so by the politicians of the valley ably supported by the congress governments at the centre. Thus the valley which is physically separated by mountains from the plains of India is mentally miles apart from the Hindus of India. Their call for azadi is actually a demand for another Pakistan based on the age old Hindu Muslim divide which is being given a geographical character since the last one hundred years by the Muslims of the subcontinent. This book is accordingly totally Muslim centric.

I would consider it a great service to Kashmir, Kashmiriat(now dead and buried) and India if a perceptive author like Mr. Peer could look beyond the present, peer into the past and make a guess at the future. He should complete his story give his views on a few vital issues pertinent to Kashmir.

How will the agony of Pandits of the valley be addressed by the valley Muslims? It is not the question of only those Pandits who were pushed out of their homes by the ethnic cleansing campaign of the Muslim militants of Kashmir in the last two decades. Through the centuries Pandits were systematically pushed out of Kashmir and have settled all over India. They too have an inalienable right over Kashmir valley which has to be recognized and conceded by the valley Muslims. Otherwise one day another Palestine will be created in Kashmir valley when Pandits and their descendants assert their rights with the same violence with which valley Muslims are keeping them out today to get their azadi.

What will happen to Budhists of Ladakh? Will they ever be safe under an independent, militant dominated and Islamist Kashmir? What about Jammu and the Muslims in Jammu and areas beyond the valley? There is no way that the Hindus of Jammu will accept to be part of an independent Kashmir, so they will separate. Who will protect the Kashmiri Muslims spread all over India and leading largely peaceful lives once Kashmir is azad. God forbid that there is wide spread reaction against the other Muslim citizens of India, the resulting scenario is too horrible to contemplate.
And what about the Kashmiris, themselves? How will they save themselves from various groups of lawless gunmen supported by a rapacious Pakistan? Can they survive without Indian economic and military support? Will they be glad to become slaves under Taliban and the Pakistani Punjab?

I will also ask Mr. Peer to look at the case of Tamilnadu. Tamils had very similar aspirations to that of Kashmiris in the 1960s. But they adjusted their desires within the idea of India and with their hard work and stress on education they have left most of India behind in progress.

Kashmiri Muslims can still turn back and join the idea of India. Their love for education and the tourism potential of a peaceful Kashmir can make Kashmir one of the more prosperous states of India. If their leaders had chalked out an inclusive future different from the exclusive path they are embarked upon since the 1950s, where would have Kashmir been now? This idea deserves a serious thought.

Write about these questions too, Mr. Peer. Complete the story like a good journalist that you are.

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