Saturday, February 6, 2010

Silent Raga - a mystery/ suspense novel

This is a book that has more questions than answers, and thus remained a mystery/ suspense to most of us.

Why was the book named Silent Raga? What was the connection between the musical notes announcing each chapter and the goings-on of the chapter? Why did Janaki run away to Asgar whom she had just met once? Why did Asgar agree to marry her having met her just once, when nowhere is it indicated that she is either a divine beauty or a divine veena player, leaving his paralysed first wife? Why did said paralysed first wife make so nice to second wife, i.e. Janaki, including playing chief advice-giver/ baby sitter? What was the relevance of Janaki's veena/ music center to the story? What was the relevance of the interview Janaki gave to the 'bob-cut' haired journalist? Why did Janaki buy the childhood home in which she never had a single positive experience? What was the relevance of Miss Nalini's friend's suicide to Kamala's suicide? Why did Mallika never evolve/ grow a spine? Why did Mallika always take Chitti with her to the hospital if she hated her so much? What was the relevance of the riots the day Mallika went to visit her father? What was the point of the American boss driving Mallika home that day? What was the point of the party at Mallika's colleague's home? Why did Mallika not express anything to her sister whom she'd been carrying a grudge against for so many years? What was the relevance of them driving past Sriperumbudur the day of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, given that the assassination is barely a footnote? Why did the father go mad ( maybe because he was in this book?)

Why did we have to know in such excruciating detail what the chai walla was wearing? Why ten pages about jattis and 'rivulets of womanhood'? Why don't we see any explanations for what most of the characters did? Why don't we see any resolution in the end of anything? Why is the ending such a damp squib? Why didn't the book have an editor who cut out the pretentious over-writing? How did the guy manage to peddle this book to a publisher (maybe the Indian exotic/ intricate culture thing?)

Overall the book club gave this book a rating of 2.5-4 on 10 (those who managed to read it). We liked the details of agraharam life, but felt it would have been better reserved for a scholarly treatise on life amidst Tam-brahms. Then, of course, Savvy who is a Tam-Brahm arrived and said she read the first two pages and they didn't strike her as authentic so she postponed reading the rest of it. Regarding the lack of resolution - someone suggested it may be there's a sequel in store. Well, guess which book club will not be queuing up to buy that one!