Thursday, March 31, 2011

Delhi by Khushwant Singh

As I mentioned in my previous post, 2 states revived my interest in fiction, particularly Indian fiction. So as soon as I finished that book I needed to get more books to read. I couldn't take my 3 month old baby to a proper book store that would take a 30 mins drive to get to; so I went to a used book store in Kamla Nagar that I used to frequent as a kid. I didn't have any recommendations so picked up a few books randomly. One of them was Delhi by Khushwant Singh. When I got home I pulled up lists of best Indian fiction books and this book was one of them. Hence I decided to read it first.

It started out well and was quite a page turner. However I soon realized that it was part fiction and part history of Delhi. It took me some time to get used to the format of randomly switching back and forth between accounts of Delhi's history and the fictional story of the protagonist. By the end of 3/4th of the novel I started enjoying the stories. Perhaps because the more recent events were more familiar to me. The issue I had with the book was that it touched upon huge events very briefly and found myself constantly going to the internet to read about the people that were referred to in the book. It was hard to really learn about the events just from the book.

Nonetheless, I did learn quite a bit of history from the book that I wasn't familiar with. In fact the only history I knew before this was from history lessons in school and the odd non fiction book I read (the best one being Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre). It was eye opening to read the book and how violent our history has been. It made me realize how ancient the clash between Hindus & Muslims is and the number of times they have massacred each other was astounding. The author did focus primarily on sex and violence though so was a pretty biased view.

All in all, not really the lightweight fiction I was looking forward to at that time. Neither is it a proper non fiction that could provide good insight into Delhi's history. Would need some supplementary reading to understand the history. Maybe more enjoyable for someone who is already familiar with all the events accounted in the book as it gives a different twist to them.

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