I enjoy it immensely when travelling friends share their stories with me. Sometimes, it almost feels as if I went with them – particularly if the friend’s story is followed up by a great novel about the travel destination. This was the case after Amélia Polonia’s return from a research trip to the Sundarbans. Her photos showed a remote and beautiful world, where people try to preserve the precious ecosystem that is their home. Images of lush greenery and beautiful sunsets were followed by – a book! Amélia kindly lent me Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide, suggesting that I might want to read about this enchanted part of India. Little did I know that a translator was one of the main characters in this novel. And that it would make me think about dreamers and realists. And go-betweens. The power of language – albeit unspoken at times – is a recurrent theme in the novel. Thinking that I almost parted with it after reading the first few pages, because I felt the perspective was too ‚male‘ and a little bit one-dimensional when describing Piya and her research, I’m reall glad I persevered, because I realised that this description was exactly right to describe Piya’s environment at the beginning of the story. Everything began to grow once she entered the realm of her research and found the right people to pursue her passion. Fokir, who helps her in this pursuit, is a very strong character that made me think about fitting in and caring for oneself and for others. All in all, lots of food for thought while exposed to the forces of nature – albeit in the four walls of my Berlin flat.
Tag Archives: India
It all starts with Fluffy’s violent death. The book is a tour de force, not just because of its length (960 pages). The characters are special and I was as fascinated by Sartaj Singh, the hard-working, likeable, but corrupt policeman as I was by Ganesh Gaitonde, the flawed and violent villain. Their personal stories are very complex and deeply linked to the city of Mumbai, its social strata and the layers of power. Knowing the ‚right‘ people can be crucial for police and thieves alike. I read the book in English – well – and Hindi. The author kindly provides a dictionary on his website, which is extremely helpful, even if you just want to doublecheck that your knowledge of Hindi swearwords is 100% up to scratch. One linguistic aspect really surprised me – I thought only Germans used the word ‚Handy‘ for mobile phone, but it is mentioned at least twice here.
I understood Ganesh Gaitonde best through his relationship with Jojo Mascarenas, a woman who runs a very lucrative „business“. And this relationship made me like him in a way and then fiercely dislike him in the end. As for Sartaj Singh: His corrupt dealings and his occasional violence seem natural in the environment he operates in, yet his conscience frequently makes itself heard, particularly when he reminisces about his dead father, who was also a policeman. It almost feels as if his actions are under constant scrutiny by a higher authority that doesn’t approve of unlawful actions.
Then there’s the guru – and the secret service, particularly Anjali – and the Pakistani intelligence officer that takes up knitting as a hobby to calm his nerves – and Mary, Jojo’s sister. They all have their own fascinating story and all these threads are woven into the complex fabric of Sacred Games. Give it to your friends for Christmas – or treat yourself. But be warned: It’s addictive! I didn’t want it to end and it still lingers in my thoughts.
Das Buch gibt es übrigens auch in der deutschen Übersetzung von Barbara Heller & Kathrin Razum.
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I do, I like the book to tell me a good story. When I heard about Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the title made me curious and the fact that it was set in India even more so. Mumbai – vast, with many hidden corners – that is the setting – or rather, Annawadi, a neighbourhood where very poor people live in the vicinity of bustling Mumbai airport. The author Katherine Boo spent three years with the people we get to know in the book and witnessed their joy and their pain – well, it’s mostly pain with a glimpse of hope here and there. Corruption is one big theme and while I was reading the book, I almost despaired of all the injustice, the tedious criminal law procedures and the unfair medical treatment of the very poor. But above all, there was a sense of the very familiar – the squabbles of neighbours, the suspicious looks at somebody who is different, the girl struggling for a better life through education. The kids dream the universal dream of a better life. May at least some of them find it!