The Riot is a novel by Shashi Taroor. It is set in the backdrop of the communalist riots of the early 90’s. Along with interesting anecdotes about medieval history, arguments from both the sides of the law, relationships between people – all these made this an interesting novel to read. One of those novels which brilliantly narrates fiction as if it actually happened. True, it is partly based on facts. But, still, I felt Shashi taroor was extremely successful in making the novel appear realistic.
It began with the event of Prescilla Hart’s death. The novel’s narration proceeds in terms of dairies,scrap books, recorded talks and transcripts ….. with some occasional “dil-ki-bath” kind of narratives. I don’t know if this methodology works well as a novel … but, this novel was interesting enough, though I can’t say whether this methodology was responsible for it. The relationship between Prescilla and Lakshman is well potrayed. Letters between Prescilla and her friend Cindy are typical Girlish letters. Some of the dialogues were fun. It was a very natural narration …. I should say. The contrast between Indian & American life is well explained in the course of novel, situationally at various places.
The story of Gazi Miyan and the way he is interpreted by Hindus and Muslims appeared pretty much interesting for me. What I liked in the book most was the way it teaches us the facts of history by making it come as a dialogue between people or as a narration as a part of the story. History textbooks might be boring to most of the people for precisely the reason that they miss this charm in them 🙂 “Tumhari Tehzeeb khud apne khanjar se khudkhushi karEgi” (Ours is a civilisation which will commit suicide out of its own complexity) – the words of Mohd iqbal, the poet, paraphrased by one of the characters in the novel, keeps reverberating as we go past the pages …..
There is a well written account on Operation Bluestar. I read about it in one article by Mark Tully some time back…. a rewind of the infamous military operation of Indira Gandhi’s rule. Hindu-Muslim riot situation was well described. The opinions and idealogies of almost all the sections of people were covered. Gurinder’s account of “Why I became a cop” is indeed very touching. There was some poetry too in the novel…though I didn’t read those poems carefully. So, no comments on them.
Let me recommend this book to all. This is one of those few books, which tells us history without boring us. Actually, i feel history books for school children should be designed as stories instead of fact-files. Riot, like one of the Shashi Taroor’s another novels that I read : The Great Indian Novel is very interesting one to read. It tells us a lot of things. It makes us think on a lot of things too. Extremely readable novel.