Monday, May 05, 2014

Book Review: The Kite Flyers By Sharad P Paul

In today’s times, reading an Indian Author usually translates into “North Indian boy meets South Indian girl” stories or “IIT/IIM boy makes it big in the big bad world” tales. So when you come across a plot of three friends from a remote village in Tamil Nadu who separate and reunite against a political backdrop you pick it up just for the refreshing change the book brings from the pink and rosy world of MBA and romance.

Kumar, Raman and Lakshmi are three friends from the village of KKP in Tamil Nadu. Flying Kites is a passion both Kumar and Raman share and one which they teach Lakshmi to enjoy. Learning practical life lessons from Kadallikaran, the groundnut vendor from their village, they look forward to an exciting childhood together but it all comes to a stand still when Kumar and Raman’s schooling comes to an abrupt end. Raman picks his life from there and decides to move to Madras to earn his living as a tailor while Lakshmi plunges into the Kaveri when her parents decide to marry her off to her Uncle. The three friends drift apart. But the tragedy of their lives doesn't end there. Against the political backdrop of MGR’s growing influence in Tamil Nadu and the general unrest of the Tamilians against Hindi as the national language, the three friends undergo changes that change the course of the lives forever. How they break apart and eventually get together is what The Kite Flyers is all about.

Sharad Paul begins this book with the narrator who wonders about the Kite framed on the wall of Cool Cuts, the salon where he goes for his haircut. He wants to question Kumar, his barber but does not get an opportunity. From there on begins the flashback of the lives of three friends and the circumstances that bring them back to the present. While he does not get into the details of their childhood and solely focuses on a few moments of their friendship and kite flying, he depicts the lives of Eunuchs when they get intertwined with those of the protagonists extremely well. What also stands out for me is the knowledge he brings out about the political situation in Tamil Nadu during the 1970’s along with the intense hatred for Hindi as the national language. The possessiveness for Tamil and everything that is Tamil is evident even today but the intensity from those times is cleverly represented by Paul.

The fine job done in setting up the political backdrop however does not seem to extend to the narrative as much. The transition from present to the past seems abrupt with no premise being set for the change. The absence of the narrator through the story and the sudden appearance towards the end also makes you question the necessity of the character. While the story concludes well, the focus on Gowrie the village school teacher in the Epilogue seems forced esp. since the character was not really introduced in the main story.  an editing standpoint is the usage of abusive words in English which take away the authenticity from the dialogue of a village boy.

Despite a few loose ends here and there, The Kite Flyers makes a fine read esp. because it is a story of what the southern parts of India truly were like in those times. Not too many Indian Fiction Authors venture into the realist world of Indian culture and history, Sharad Paul is an exception whose efforts must be appreciated.

26 comments:

  1. I like that negatives in a review are written with specific instances - THAT sort is the only one that helps and author. Good reviewing Seeta.

    One small mention, though. If the usage of 'miles' etc. was in that part of the story that was set in the 70s, as apparently almost all the story was, then it probably WAS correct usage for the times. Having lived in the 70s in Tamil Nadu, I can vouch that the routine usage was 'miles' and NOT kilometers, particularly where people were referring to distances that were not mapped or otherwise determined by the Govt. The British influence was still very strong then.

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    1. Oh, that's interesting. Then this is entirely my mistake. I will correct it in the review... but why was it so? was it another rebellion of sorts?

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    2. Nothing of that sort Seeta! I think it worked that way in the North as well. 'Aat meel door hoga' and the likes was the normal usage. Wherever distance was as people estimated it, they used to talk in miles only.

      It is only the milestones (Uh! Kilometer stones, I suppose :) ) which were marked in KM and it became easier to just read it off as it was rather than convert it to miles and talk. So, we slowly shifted to the metric system in speech as well.

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    3. Aah interesting! Now that you mentioned the "meel" part I can see the logic in it :)

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  2. At times, some young authors try to write on subjects which are fairly unexplored, but it's a pity that their efforts are not appreciated.

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    1. I agree, typically such books get ignored and these are the ones which should be valued :| speaks volumes of Indian reading habits nowadays

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  3. Second review I have read on the book .. and it does seem to be a good one.. glad you put some negative as most of reviews only have good points ..

    Bikram

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    1. Oh yes if you are fond of reading Indian Authors then this one classifies as one of the better books out there. Do let me know what you think of it.

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    2. And about bringing out the shortcomings.. I dont believe in having biased reviews.. there have been books that I found to be flawless but they are far and few

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    3. well i will have to order this one .. and hopefully when i get to read it , i will let you know.. i have this habit of buying all these books and they are in the bookshelf in the loft .. I need a day of 48 hours to do everything

      Bikram

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  4. Good review. Seems like an interesting book. However seems a bit too serious for my current frame of mind.

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    1. Its a very good change from the Indian books you see offlate.. save it for a time when you are in a reflective mood :)

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  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, it is a good book to pick up

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  6. Liked your detailed review, Seeta! So agree about Gouri Teacher in the epilogue. It came like a bolt out of the blue!! And the intensity of hatred for the Hindi language kind of shocked me. I am aware of the bias towards Tamil (and it exists even today) but the way it was described in the book, it came as a shock! But a wonderful read, it was... different from the regular books! :)

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    1. Yeah, the intensity of hatred for Hindi was very strong back then and it primarily took birth from the MGR influence.. speaks volumes of how politics can influence society right?
      Having lived in Chennai for about 5 years I can safely say the anti Hindi sentiment though exists, it is not as strong as they say it used to be in the 70's...

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  7. Sounds different and interesting as you aptly said from the MBA or romance books!

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    1. :) Tells me how much you are fed up of those kind as well.

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  8. That makes it interesting, a different set up always increases the curiosity.
    Nice review, gives us a good outline yet not revealing the end.

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    1. Yup a different set up which is set in an Indian context and has a literary appeal to it. Thanks for the good words about the review, they mean a lot :)

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  9. Looks like it's a novel worth reading.

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    1. Oh, I think you esp. will like to read this one.

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  10. As you've mentioned , the backdrop is really different from other books we are finding in stores nowadays.Would like to know about the political situation in the 70s in Tamilnadu....nice review Seeta ...think I should pick this one ... :-)

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    1. Let me know how you find it :)

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  11. Nice write-up! Being able to write creatively is something not all of us are capable of. Count yourself blessed because you have a talent. Getting into the mood in writing does not have a set of rules to follow. ‘To each his own’ is what people say; however, a list of suggestions wouldn’t hurt.how to write a novel

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  12. Great write-up! Writing is a talent, and it must not be wasted. As with everything that we had been entrusted, we should

    let it grow and share it with the world.>life long

    learner

    ReplyDelete

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