Sunday, 13 May 2018

Book Review: The Outraged – Times of Ferment

Despite having read all of Aditya Sudarshan’s previous works, I was not fully prepared for The Outraged – Times of Ferment, which is set on a more elaborate and grander scale than his previous three. My suspicions were doubly confirmed (I say this with gladness) when at the end of the 350-odd page tome, I found a blurb on Book 2, Times of Strife. No, I had no inkling that Times of Ferment is only Book 1, especially since the front cover doesn’t say so, unlike some recent bestsellers which proclaim that a trilogy is on its way. Now, I don’t even know if The Outraged is a trilogy, though I’d be delighted if it is.

Dhruv the narrator mingles with the most happening people in Mumbai, its liberati, and lives in its artiest, and possibly nicest, suburb, Versova. Dhurv’s set is growingly upset with the increasing intolerance in India. There’s Ahishor Frances, a young filmmaker, one of the most vocal and one willing to put his money where his mouth is. However it is not really his money, since he has a sponsor, but that’s beside the point. No, not actually, but I’ll come to it later. Sasha, the son of a successful Indian bureaucrat and his common law Afghan wife, spindly and hunchbacked, is just as keen on freedom of speech, but unlike many of his fellow liberals, his love for God permeates his being. Maithili Krishna, attractive, talented, driven by wander-lust, with whom Sasha is hopelessly in love, is more interested in what makes the universe spin, than in freedom of speech. Definitely a modern day flower child, she disappears towards the middle of the book, but her influence remains. And many more.

Ahishor Frances starts to make a movie which exposes a god-man and incurs the wrath of the god-man’s followers. To make things worse, Ashihor's financier pulls out. Bashed up and with a head wound, Ashihor’s friends and family decide to go on the offensive. Friends of Freedom is launched and it brings in its wake the various schisms within the liberals and so-called liberals. Jatin Khanna is appalled with Sasha’s write-up for the Friends of Freedom project. Can god-men ever be called gifted? Are all mystics frauds? Sasha is hounded out of a gathering and takes refuge by the sea.

Sudarshan has an easy way with words. His language is not poetic or unnecessarily flowery, but has the right dash of elegance to push the story along. As with any large literary undertaking, Sudarshan does not get to the story in a hurry. He dawdles and takes his time to get there and even then, does not rush the plot, which worked for me.

However, there are times when Sudarshan does cut to the chase. For example, when Sasha whines to Ashihor that he hasn’t got Maithili, who seems to be too complicated, mysterious and profound, Ashihor clarifies that Maithili’s outwards demeanour is a deception, that she is actually quite dumb and confused.

How does one respond to being raped? File a police complaint or out the rapist, who is well-known to the victim and her set, on Twitter? Sudarshan tackles these questions with verve, though he doesn’t give you the answers easily. The answers aren’t blowing in the wind, either.

I give The Outraged – Times of Ferment, four stars out of five. Do pick up a copy and read.

You’ll find my reviews of Sudharshan’s previous books here:

A nice quiet holiday
Show Me A Hero
The Persecution of Madhav Tripathi

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