Sunday, January 8, 2017

Burqa here, burqa there, shariah for all

“Burqa here, fatwa there. Shariah for all,”
Aravind Adiga writes in his book.  It isn't cricket
when this occurs, but even those who call “no ball!'
can't win by  spinning on this sticky wicket.

The ball has been dropped on boundary lines and in the slips,
while umpires are asleep in councils of security,
and spectators aren't quite ready for apocalypse
in a game that's nearly over, sans futurity

Dwight Garne, reviewing Selection Day by by Aravind Adiga (“An India Seen Through the Wickets, Soulful Yet Harsh,” 1/3/17, writes:

What do Indians want from their novelists? That question is taken up, like a scimitar, by a worldly cricket fanatic in “Selection Day,” Aravind Adiga’s powerful new novel.

What they want “is not literature at all, but flattery,” he says, at least in those Indian novels written in English. “We want to see ourselves depicted as soulful, sensitive, profound, valorous, wounded, tolerant and funny beings. All that Jhumpa Lahiri stuff.”

This man continues his train of thought, with bravado and morbidity, as if distilling the essence of profane things. “What are we, then?” he asks. He answers his own question: “We are animals of the jungle, who will eat our neighbor’s children in five minutes, and our own in 10. Keep this in mind before you do any business in this country.”

“Selection Day,” Mr. Adiga’s third novel, supplies further proof that his Booker Prize, won for “The White Tiger” in 2008, was no fluke. He is not merely a confident storyteller but also a thinker, a skeptic, a wily entertainer, a thorn in the side of orthodoxy and cant. There’s little “Jhumpa Lahiri stuff” in “Selection Day,” yet his characters manage to be soulful indeed.

“Selection Day” is a cricket novel that maintains a running critique of that pastime. (“Lunch break! Nothing that stops for lunch can be called a sport.”) It’s a book about fathers that has few good ones on display. It’s a book about language that cannot decide among many. It’s a book about bargains in which no character makes a wise one.

It’s a book about religion and its tribal cruelties, and it bears bad tidings. A cricket columnist in Mumbai, an atheist, worries as he watches “young women in all black follow the young men in all white.” He fears that “the fecundity and the fundamentalism together were going to bake a nice big Christmas cake for India in about 20 years. Burqa here, fatwa there. Shariah for all.” Mr. Adiga’s take on the world often makes you consider what the apocalypse might sound like as reported by the BBC’s Hindi service.

Yet who are Muslims, this book asks, if not the most passionate of cricket fans? Can this sport save humanity? “Have you ever tried to kill someone with a cricket bat?” another man thinks. “All but impossible. The deep and intrinsic silliness of cricket, I think, all that fair play and honorable draw stuff, makes it ideally suited for male social control in India.”


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