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The Business of Debates and Reviews

I don’t know what genre the critics have slotted Nishabd. I think, so do the amused theatre goers in this small city, that it fits rather snugly into Senile Comedy (i.e.Comedy gone senile). The self inflicted compulsions of watching the ridiculous (Nishabd) or reading the ridiculous (Booker Prize: The Inheritance of Loss By Kiran Desai) is the result of studying with religious earnestness the reviews of fat and rich critics and agonizing weirdly that I will pass into the next world without seeing the Indian Lolita- an old man ascetically denying himself the touch of youthful silky lush flesh or before I finish the “momo”fied banal writing that is being brandished as the classic of the times. I cannot miss such stuff of the times if I need to comprehend the national debates that are indefatigably aired in my living room night after night. (The Gose and Barkha variety!)

Set in beautiful lush Munnar, the old man (you know who I am referring to) drives around, takes a few photographs and dreams himself silly over an irritating “free spirit”. (Irritating is her name. I have just opened up my thesaurus to dig up the synonyms: annoying, exasperating, vexing, irksome etc. are some of her other names.) Well Miss Irritating seduces the grand old man of the Indian films with a fleeting whisper of a peck ( A Bitter disappointment!) and thenceforth he is consumed by the inextinguishable flames of eternal love and is reduced to a pathetic weepy aching lover. (Oh Boy!) It was unconvincing act of the best kind. No one is deceived even for a moment and our national treasure Big B comes away unscathed without having committed any sin or without damaging his image and is victimized for his deep and delicate feelings. ( Oh weary dreary! I nearly cried with tiresome boredom of being confined to a theatre chair which I had convincingly persuaded myself not to vacate- All for some silly vacation romance that a bored girl indulged in.)

It was the same with that Book of Loss. I could not bring myself to abandon a Booker winner half way through hoping to find some treasure at the end of those pages that are burdened with so called immigrant dilemmas. Set in Kalimpong the book supposedly delves into the Gorkha problems and Kanchenjunga is my witness that the writing is real debilitating but critics have conspiratorially decided to fool the naïve reader. Sample this: “A delightfully original book, a triumph of the storyteller’s art, nuanced and even worthy of the most overworked term: luminous.” Here is another : “If God is in details, Ms Desai has written a holy book. Page after page, from Harlem to the Himalayas, she captures the terror and exhilaration of being alive in this world.” (Oh holy holies! It is just a damp and tasteless momo that gets undone.)

There was a time when I used to dread the verbal cascade of the sales folk. Now, I no longer fear those straightforward simple types but it is the disguised salesmen: critics and talk show hosts with their devious methods of marketing that I have the deepest respect for. Their words shimmer with so much intellectual gloss that I cannot detect the sales pitch. And unfailingly I fall for it. Over and over.

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