- Bobby Kunhu
Interlude - Shruthi Rao
Hangwoman - KR Meera
When the Personal Becomes Political - Gita Aravamudan
Poetry by Sheri Vandermolen -
Doli Democracy - Madhulika Liddle
Smile; There's Only This Life - Janaki Murali
Beepathu Teacher - Bobby Kunhu
Being a Family - Daya Bhat
Renu Mashi - Shruti Sareen
City of Palaces - Sujata Massey
Resolving Ukraine - William Doreski
Robert's Rules - Melodie Corrigall
Poetry by Richard King Perkins -
Evening Out the Odds - Damyanti Ghosh
Damyanti - Mariam Karim
-Emma Donoghue (Karen Gabriel)
-Raghu Srinivasan (Proteeti Banerjee)
A God in Every Stone
-Kamila Shamsie (Mariam Karim)
-V Sanjay Kumar (Mita Bose)
-Kalyan Ray (Karen Gabriel)
The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey
-Hansda Sowendra Shekhar (Suneetha Balakrishnan)
A Dirge for the Damned
-Vishwas Patil (Mariam Karim)
-Sreemoyee Piu Kundu (Smita Sahay Karan)
Noon Tide Toll
-Romesh Gunesekera (Suneetha Balakrishnan)
The Blind Lady's Descendants
-Anees Salim (Suneetha Balakrishnan)
One Part Woman
-Perumal Murugan (Suneetha Balakrishnan)
-Sangeeta Bandopadhay (Divya Dubey)
-Chitra Viraraghavan (Suneetha Balakrishnan)
The Blind Lady's Descendants by Anees Salim: life waiting to be discovered in ubiquitous Mangobaghs.
-- Suneetha Balakrishnan
Extent: 308 pp
Price: Rs 599
I call his works small-town satires, with layers and layers of life waiting to be discovered in ubiquitous Mangobaghs. Anees Salim’s fourth book in two years certainly proves me right. The author tells us he set the story in his home-town, Varkala. I beg to differ; indeed, it could be anywhere in the world. And that’s only the first of the positives I express about The Blind Lady’s Descendants.
The 268-page book is a single suicide note by someone ‘capable of creating little adages in his head’. Here’s a sample: ‘Past is a thin armour. You can’t get back in with that paunch.’ Sound, do you think? He has many more in stock.
BLD is quite a complex narrative and is written straight from the heart of the protagonist, Amar. The narrator is a keen observer, and scorns taboos. It’s his worldly wisdom that shows us the fractions of the world around him. For e.g., the various marriages, his Aunt Suhuda’s various divorces against that of his own parents’; only that the latter did not happen: ‘It was a long while before I realized theirs was the sort of marriage that was not destined to bottom out, the kind that had turned silently sour.’
Then there are those tiny pictures of the radios that Akmal, Amar’s brother, learns to repair after he pulls them apart. And the cassava leaf chains that Jasira, his sister, makes for his aunt’s daughter during one of those pre-divorce conferences that happen invariably in the woman’s house. For me, the cassava leaf chain placed the incident in a coastal town, in a house with an expanse of land around it with these very plants planted upon mounds at equal distances, and marriages play-acted by children across time – garlanding would-be spouses with cassava leaf chains – the green pendant like leaf hanging down a split ruby-coloured stalk. And the radios being pulled apart only to be put back again, like the lives Amar points to in these pages.
The steady melancholic strain camouflaged in satire strikes you after a few pages; the depression that grips Amar comes through in his narrative periodically, especially when he talks about his dysfunctional family. Sophiya, Asma, Hamsa, Jasira and Akmal, all with idiosyncrasies of their own, Uncle Javi who, in real, is just a guest appearance, and the blind grandmother who appears much later, and of course the Bunglow – that crumbling building that’s a living witness to all that happens. Add to this a range of incidents, from small-town happenings to the histories of India which we are still not reconciled with: think assassination of leaders and the fall of domes – and all this in the most austere of prose.
By the time you grasp what’s happening in Amar’s life, you will not blame him for his melancholy. The poor guy has enough to cope with, including deaths, absences, bitterness and untruths; and to be fair this is only routine in any small town. Perhaps that’s why the pace is slow but focused. And this is what grips the reader. You will not put the book down until you have turned the last page. And then you might realize that it was probably the subtle lampoon and not the melancholy that led you on.
The autobiographical elements in the book are not too hard to miss. The small-town Muslim neighbourhood, the adman lingo, the clueless adventures the protagonist undertakes, the minute family details, and of course the observation skills. Anyone familiar with Anees’s social media pages will know what I am talking about.
In The Blind Lady’s Descendants, Anees brings us the best of contemporary prose. As a reader, I hold this book most precious and very close to my heart.