The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor is a retelling of the Mahabharata in the context of the Indian political scenario, roughly from before Independence till about the middle of the 1980s.
Incidents and characters in Mahabharata that appear: Jayprakah Drona (Minister of State for Adminstrative Reform) and his son, Aswathaman; shooting the target and other ideas as shown by Arjun (here, an English politician), Eklavya but refuses to cut off his thumb (“I’m sorry, sir, but I cannot destroy my life and my mother’s to pay your fee” (199)); Draupadi as Draupadi Mokrasi; the exile of the Pandavas (292 onwards), Hidimba, and Draupadi’s swayamvar, and game of dice.
English language by Sir Richard, “these native languages don’t really have much to them, you know. And it’s not as if you have to write poetry in them. A few crucial words, sufficient English for ballast, and you’re sailing smoothly” (37).
“There is, in short, Ganapathi, no end to the story of life. There are merely pauses. The end is the arbitrary invention of the teller, but there can be no finality about his choice. Today’s end is, after all, only tomorrow’s beginning.” (163)
“We are all in a state of continual disturbance, all stumbling and tripping and running and floating along from crisis to crisis. And in the process, we are all making something of ourselves, building a life, a character, a tradition that emerges from and sustains us in each succeeding crisis. This is our dharma.
Throughout this unpredictable and often painful process of self-renewal, despite the abrupt stops and starts of the cosmic cycle, the forces of destiny remain unshaken in their purpose. They are never thwarted by the jolting and jarring of history’s chariots. The vehicles of human politics seem to run off course, but the site of the accident turns out to have been the intended destination. The hopes and plans of millions seem to have been betrayed, but the calamity turns out to have been ordained all along. That is how a nation’s regeneration proceeds, Ganapathi, with several bangs to every whimper.” (245)
Shashi Tharoor, The Great indian Novel
“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. Living with someone you really share things with is only wonderful, it’s actually better than all the love songs, all the silly movies say it is. It really is worth fighting for, bring brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” Erica Jong, How to Save Your Own Life, 263.
“You see I thought love got easier over the years so it didn’t hurt so bad when it hurt, or feel so good when it felt good. I thought it smoothed out and old people hardly noticed* it. I though it curled up and died, I guess. Now I saw it rear up like a whip and lash.” Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine (233-234).
Kindness and a caring mind are two separate qualities. Kindness is manners. It is superficial custom, an acquired practice. Not so the mind. The mind is deeper, stronger, and, I believe it is far more inconstant” (170). Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
“Perhaps she [Blanca] feared the grandiose love that had stood so many tests would not be able to withstand the most dreadful test of all: living together’’ (264). The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende.
“My love, I do not love you for you or for me or for the two of us together, I do not love you because my blood tells me to love you, I love you because you are not mine, because you are from the other side, from there where you invite me to join and I cannot make the jump, because in the deepest moment of possession you are not in me, I cannot reach you, I cannot get beyond your body, your laugh, there are times when it torments me that you love me (…), I’m tormented by your love because I cannot use it as a bridge because a bridge can’t be supported by just one side” (425).
Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch
The Gunny Sack by M.G. Vassanji is set in Africa and is written in the style of a memoir. Vassanji himself was born in Nairobi in 1950 and educated in Tanzania. The gunny sack is bequeathed to the protagonist, Salim Juma, a Tanzanian Asian by his grandaunt, Ji Bai. The sack unravels the histories of the characters.
Themes: home, communities, diaspora, family relationships, and migrant life.
The gunny sack is described as,” It sits beside me, seductive companion, a Shehrazade postponing her eventual demise, spinning out yarns, telling tales that have no beginning or end, keeping awake night after night, imprisoned in this basement to which I thought I had escaped” (5).
“For the uncle, love was control. Respect was obedience. For Prakash, love was letting go. Independence, self-reliance: I learned the litany by heart. But I felt suspended between worlds.”
Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine, 76.
The world is divided between those who stay and those who leave”.
Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine, 228