The Shadow Lines by
Such moments are rare indeed these days when one takes a book in the hand and is completely captivated by it after reading the first few pages. That happened to me recently when I started reading "The Shadow Lines" by Amitav Ghosh. "The Shadow Lines," Ghosh's second novel, was published in 1988, four years after the sectarian violence that shook New Delhi in the aftermath of the Prime minister, Indira Gandhi's assassination. Written when the homes of the Sikhs were still smouldering, some of the most important questions the novel probes are the various faces of violence and the extent to which its fiery arms reach under the guise of fighting for freedom. Ghosh's treatment of violence in Calcutta and in Dhaka is valid even today, more than ten years after its publication. What has happened recently in Kosovo and in East Timor show that answers still evade the questions which Ghosh poses about freedom, about the very real yet non-existing lines which divide nations, people, and families. Much has been written about Amitav Ghosh's novels. "The Novels of Amitav Ghosh", edited by R. K. Dhawan was published this year by Prestige Books, New Delhi. If I find it necessary to say something more about Ghosh's writing it is because this novel moved me as none other did in the recent times. The Shadow Lines is the story of the family and friends of the nameless narrator who for all his anonymity comes across as if he is the person looking at you quietly from across the table by the time the story telling is over and silence descends. Before that stage arrives the reader is catapulted to different places and times at breath taking tempo. The past, present and future combine and melt together erasing any kind of line of demarcation. Such lines are present mainly in the shadows they cast. There is no point of reference to hold on to. Thus the going away - the title of the first section of the novel - becomes coming home - the title of the...
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