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Novel / 30.07.2008

Chapter 16 “Us and Them (And after all, we’re only ordinary men.)”    It started out as an ordinary day. Cars were plying their routes and pedestrians were rushing to their destinations. By now Samir had dispatched all the pages of the Sahityashastra. On the outside, everything appeared the same. Two schoolboys strolled homewards around noon. As they walked along Chowpatty, they found themselves taking giant steps, as if they were on the moon. Too awe-struck to say anything, they noticed that other pedestrians were also walking that way, with giant steps. They were sliding, gliding, rising into the air, and trailing down again. Anyone looking at Marine Drive and Chowpatty would have observed a strange sight, like a slow-motion film, with people flying a foot into the air and then drifting down, spanning a distance of about six feet. At first, the people were shocked out of their...

Novel / 30.07.2008

Chapter 15 The Politics of the End or The End of Politics   The two weeks in Naperville at Kulkarni’s house had flown by in a blur of activity. The beginning of December had ushered in the first snowfall. Samir saw snow for the first time in his life. He and Asha were returning from the supermarket and had just parked the car by the house. As they emerged into the twilight, the first flakes drifted from the sky. Samir set his grocery bag down and reached out for them, their wetness dissolving in his palms. He stood there, not uttering a word, as the sounds around him subsided. The earth turned white. At first, it was gradual, a patch here, a branch there, a roof nearby, until a luminous glow filled the sky. When Asha stepped on a twig, it snapped with a loud crunch. Neither of...

Novel / 30.07.2008

Chapter 13            Geometric Progression   Aditya Gandhi motioned to Harold to sit across from him on the blue sofa. Harold, surprised, didn’t move. He tried to speak, but words did not form on his lips. “Please have a seat. Forgive this unpleasantness.” “Aditya!” Harold said, summoning his voice. He dropped his suitcase, walked over to the sofa, and sat down. He had regained his composure and now stared back at him. “I hope we haven’t made you too uncomfortable,” Aditya said. “Where are we?” “Lonavala. I suppose you know where that is. It’s a lovely town, isn’t it? A bit spoiled with all the construction activity, of course.” “You killed Meghnad.” “I felt bad about it, but he left me no choice.” Aditya sighed. “He was beginning to make trouble for us, especially with his research into the Sahityashastra.” “And what about Jim and Ajit? Did you kill them too?” Harold said. “I merely planned them...

Novel / 30.07.2008

Chapter 12            Veil of the Vidhi   Half of Bombay was getting ready for Seth’s party. Samir glanced at Asha in her black dress and felt a surge of desire. At eight p.m. it was time to leave. The cruise ship itself, the Vidhi, was anchored at sea, and they had to embark from the Gateway of India in a small boat to reach the ship. When Samir and Asha arrived, they found over a few hundred people there, all waiting for the twenty or so motorboats to ferry them across to the ship. The boats bobbed and pitched back and forth as people leapt from the quay onto the boats. Asha spotted Haresh Chatterjee, her colleague at Columbia, and realized with a start that he had attended Harold’s lecture at the Asia Society, the night of Meghnad’s murder. At just that moment, Chatterjee glanced in her direction, and...

Novel / 30.07.2008

Chapter 11            The Real and the Rational   On Monday morning, Asha awoke late and with no classes to teach, so she lingered in bed. She had received the Sahityashastra and spent the weekend poring over it. Her growing admiration for it matched Harold’s. On this cold, sunny, windy day, she had no plans to step out. She relished the times when she could work out of her apartment. It was quieter than a library in fact, though the stillness and solitude made the atmosphere a bit spooky. It was nearly eleven when Asha finally struggled out of bed. Her cat, Panini, who had curled on one corner of the comforter, jumped to the floor and sidled against Asha’s leg. She lifted him up and waddled over drowsily to the kitchen. She cooked herself a breakfast of eggs with chives. After she’d eaten, she read her email. Her...

Novel / 29.07.2008

Chapter 10            The Sharp and the Fuzzy   Samir Khanna leaned back in his chair and whistled a short melancholy tune. On this late Saturday night he was working on an article for the Indian Times. The Arts Editor for the daily, Samir was writing a report on a new artist’s first show at Jehangir Art Gallery. “Word, Image, Information,” a collection of installations, had fascinated him. The neo-conceptual artist, Sanjay Lal, liked to say the idea for the exhibition was sufficient unto itself, and the exhibition was just an epiphenomenon. Samir thought this a bit extreme, but found his ideas interesting nonetheless. Sanjay had turned to art late in life. Now, at the age of fifty, he drew his inspiration from Paul Klee; he wanted to plumb the roots of experience, the realm of possibility. His raw material was words and images like many other artists’,...

Novel / 29.07.2008

Chapter 9         Fact and Feeling   “I’ll be down in a minute,” Harold said. The bellboy lifted Harold’s suitcase and backed out the door. Harold cast a last lingering look around the room. The poignant combination of light and wood left him with a dull ache. He traced a finger along a chair’s arm and wondered when he might find the time to come again to Nirana, and whether it would be more peaceful the next time. Sighing, he picked up his burgundy briefcase, in which he’d carefully packed the Sahityashastra. Bob was already waiting at the cab, and Mrs. Gupta was instructing the bellboy. As Harold emerged into the open air, he glanced wistfully at the observation tower, still only half-complete, as part of the restoration was still under way. The events of the last couple of days had jolted everyone into the harsh present where decisions must...

Novel / 28.07.2008

Chapter 8            The Same and the Different   In the candlelight, the Sanskrit form of “Sahityashastra” glowed back at Harold from the first page. The volume’s dimensions indicated that it must have been transcribed in British times, probably in the late 1800s. He wondered at its solitary history. Somehow, by some miracle of fate, this volume had survived. Reading further, he recognized that it was based on Jagannatha’s version of the seventeenth century. It had been copied by Sukumara in 1899. This discovery suggested a change in strategy. There was no longer any need to read around the Sahityashastra. He had the book itself and could now abandon the scrupulous, painful search for relevant critical materials. He need not fret about reconstructions on such a thin base of evidence. He now had an opportunity to test some of his ideas. “Where did you find this?” Harold asked the priest. “It’s...

Novel / 28.07.2008

Chapter 7            The Presence of the Past    On this lazy morning, Harold put down his copy of “Ayodhya and Beyond” on the wooden table beside him. He sprawled back in his ornate medieval chair, took a deep breath, and viewed the restored room reflectively. Restoration, he thought, was basically extrapolation. You were given a fragment of the entity, and you had to construct the rest in harmony with the fragment. The windows, doors and lintels, the chairs and tables, and the beds all possessed this unified character. The windows contained jalis, the doors were decorated with carved panels, and the chairs and tables and beds carried carved work on them too, each curve echoing the other curves on other pieces of furniture, tying them to one another in an abstract intercourse of wooden patterns across the room. And yet, none of it was oppressive, or even...