Short Takes
Casting the sardonic eye
Reviewed by Randeep Wadehra

The Goat, The Sofa and Mr Swami 
by R. Chandrasekar. 
Hachette.
Pages 296. Rs 250.

THE octogenarian Prime Minister Keshav Motwani is affectionately referred to as "Old Man" by his PA, Mr. Swamy, a joint secretary in the PMO. But Motwani is more of an old fox, who knows how to hog all the credit and deflect the crap onto Swamyís head. On the other hand, Swamy manipulates, and even blackmails, the PM to get his way. This equation between the two gives rise to several amusing situations Ė getting cheeky IFS officers transferred to Mogadishu, for example. There are other entertaining episodes involving oversized sandalwood sofa, a Baltistani goat gifted by the Pakistani Premier etc. However, if you have read/watched the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister series (authors: Sir Antony Jay & Jonathan Lynn) you would know that these are hard acts to follow or adapt to Indian conditions. Especially, by an author who is not really an "insider". For this reason alone, this novel stops short of being a biting satire.

Satires arenít mere chuckle-raisers but thought-provokers as well. Thoughts that would help improve the society, enabling the system to facilitate liberal ethos in the process. Naturally, such writings will have to be extremely acidic and ruthless in tone and tenor, even as the satiristís sardonic eye focusses unerringly on the wrongdoings of sarkari personages and institutions, among other things. Unfortunately, Indian fiction in English is rather emaciated as far as social farce, political satire or humour in general is concerned. The reasons are not far to seek. Most of the Indian writers in English come from elitist backgrounds with a stake in the status quo, which goes against the grain of a satirist, whose unarticulated aim is to usher in change for the better by mercilessly lampooning the people in power.

Her Flight to the Love Nest
by Kuldip Singh Bedi.
Diamond Books.
Pages 206. Rs 100.

Confined to a wheelchair, Kindri is a physically handicapped but spirited woman. When her father was on deathbed she had promised him that she would look after her younger brother. She keeps her word by getting him married and settled in life. In return she is rewarded with humiliations and indifference. Eventually, she is taken care of by Chinti who has no one else to call her own. Even as the emotional relationship between these two women progresses there is a love interest in the person of Hardip, which brings its own tensions and hopes into Kindriís life. The author tries to juxtapose Kindriís innate chutzpa with her desire for consummation. Interesting read.

Kaihan
by Lisbon Ferrao.
Frog Books.
Pages 208. Rs 225.

This is the story of a shepherd boy named Kaihan who lives in a hamlet in Baluchistan. His father dies when he is still a toddler, and is raised by his widowed mother. Kaihan loves Freba and there does not appear to be any hitch in their marriage when they reach the right age. But, Kaihan discovers that he is suffering from a terminal disease. From here on, the narrative takes a turn towards metaphysics via the faceoff between Kaihan and the Angel of Death. Even as he suffers frowns of fortune, Kaihanís life undergoes another twist after his meeting with the Archangel Gabriel. When Persians invade his land Kaihan graduates into a warrior. The story is good. It would have been better if attention to proofreading had been paid.





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