05 February 2010

Rosha by Vishal Bhandari

Beauty, romance, cruelty - and an awful idiom
Vishal Bhandari lives in my city, but we don’t know each other – as yet, I mean.
His book was sent to me by his friend Faheem, who is ace photographer with the Pune Mirror and who, for reasons best known to himself, addresses me as “Auntie”.
Since I have a particular fondness for being called Auntie, I read the book and though it has major flaws, enjoyed it quite a bit.
One of the things I liked is that, well before it says so, I could sense that it was based in Pune. Then, Vishal Bhandari hints at his narrator’s profession without quite specifying it – and that makes you guess a bit before you find out.

In all, he is a wonderful story teller – he knows how to build up a story and hold interest, create strong characters, weave in subplots, interesting information and a strong sense of the difference between right and wrong too.
Together with the beautiful but unfortunate Rosha, we travel from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia to England and then to India, and along the way learn a little of regional politics and society. I even learnt something really special about a prominent but completely-neglected monument in my own city.
But there is one thing that’s all wrong about this book, and that is the language. It’s a strange idiom, strewn with inaccurately-used prepositions and adjectives and far too many clichés. Here are a few examples, which also give an idea of the colourful and lively story.

“Cocooned as a sex slave in Saudi Arabia, Rosha had transformed into a colourful butterfly that fluttered in an out of classrooms and libraries of an ancient college in the United Kingdom.”

“What would have been more embarrassing I thought – Edward marrying an orphaned barren bastard from Afghanistan and leading a happy life or exchanging vows with the daughter of a flourishing business tycoon, who just could not model herself in accordance to aristocracy?”

“Finally, that day arrived when I had to bid adieu to London. As I drove to Heathrow, I remembered that sunny morning when I had stepped in and four years of eventful life was nearing its end with each mile the taxi headed further. I had thanked everybody wholeheartedly for having helped me generously to build myself.”

On one hand I’m tempted to comment that the ferocious use of red pen could have earned this a book a wider market.
On the other, I can’t help wondering (with a little frisson of fear) whether, if enough books written in such language are published and sold, the quality of idiom will cease to be a consideration in the publication of a book.
Finally, I must say that I hope this book will fall into the hands of a really good Bollywood director. There's a super-hit film in the making here.

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