The death of Vishnu

Posted by Divya at Monday, July 20, 2009

By Manil Suri

The book is my Indian entry for the Orbis Terrarum. This novel is mostly cruel, morbid humor, much unlike other Indian author novels that I have read; and this distinction in itself, makes it an interesting read.

There is nothing much to say about the storyline, which is simple and made into a good read by Suri’s well delivered prose like writing. The tale unfolds through present, past and unbelievable visions of the odd-job-man and drunk Vishnu. The dwellers of the building are comically depicted in their paralyzed faiths and notions, which are again entwined with the dying Vishnu in the landing situation. The element of humor comes by easily, which gets darker as the story proceeds.

However, there are three intriguing elements that stand out in the book – firstly the time period of the happenings is only made known through the references to the various hindi movies, songs, actors from that era; the English translations of the hit song lyrics was a first and nostalgic!
Secondly, Indian mythology is the benchmark to envisage the faiths and actions of the various characters that flow in and out through the pages. The hallucinations of a dying man Vishnu and the belief-troubled Jalal hold more references to the Indian myths than our generation would have ever known.

Thirdly, food is a significant factor to comprehend the many relationships in the book – While Mrs Pathak and Mrs Asrani, who share the kitchen and pilfer each other’s supplies, describes the animosity between the neighbors, the midnight snacking of tandoori chicken by the young bride and groom sets a giant leap to the relationship between Vinod and his wife. The author describes chai and the past evoking effects it has on Vishnu, while he also gets into gory sexual narration with the loved Indian mango.

Read the book for the writing. If it is a feel good factor, you are expecting, this book may not be the best choice. It simply leaves you neutral and from time to time smirking through the pages; and like any common man that RK lakshman so well conveyed to us, we would simply shut the book and carry on to ignore the harsher ironies of India Suri tries to portray to us.



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