Shalimar the Clown is a book by Salman Rushdie who won the booker of bookers for Midnight’s Children.
This was an almost 400 page book and I took nearly 3 weeks to finish this. Actually I took more than 2 weeks to read just half. Savouring and enjoying it slowly. I must admit I was very distracted by twitter and blogging and other activities. Then realizing I better buck up before I get a library fine, I read the other half in a day. The way I got it done was to just shut off everything else and focus on one task – reading.
The journey was exhiliarating and I was at once troubled and horrified. You see there were two stories going on. Two tragedies.
One story about how love and hate are so closely entwined. It was a story about Shalimar the Clown being consumed and destroyed by the bitter bile of revenge. It tells of how a sweet natured boy can turn into a terrorist.
It was also based on the real tragedy of Kashmir. A story playing out right now. A story that is not in the forefront on in the headlines. A story of the genocide of a beautiful harmonious people who lived in what once was paradise. Paradise not only in terms of the natural beauty, but a beautiful place because people of different faiths lived in true harmony. Made me think of the harmony in Singapore and have a new appreciation for it.
It was just heart wrenching to read and to know this was real. An identity of a people being erased. This is what happens in disputed territories around the world. The number of army personnel outweigh the population of Kashmiris.
I knew that India and Pakistan were fighting over Kashmir, I had no idea that China was involved too.
I didn’t want to watch this video till I had completed the book. So if you have read it too, here’s the interview where Salman Rushdie himself talks about this very personal book which is dedicated to his Kashmiri grandparents. He took 4 years to write it and to me that’s a very short time considering what a masterpiece the book is.
And this is what writers do. Talk about the human condition, and bring to light stories that would otherwise have been buried. There was a decade in my life when I was so consumed by work that I had not a moment to read. It was work, sleep, work. Reading was a luxury.
I was a frog in a well.
These days it feels more like a necessity. I have a thirst for it that will never be satisfied. And I am glad that I will never run out of good books that constantly expand my horizons.