Dear all, have fun with the first guest contribution on on:

Doomsday and Love in Manil Suri’s “The City of Devi”:

Are you ready for a frenzy story of wild mobs in India’s big business blobber city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), getting totally out of hand, as rumours from a leaked communiqué forecast an immediate nuclear Pakistani attack on India?

You better be, because this coincides with the already frenzy frictions between Hindu and Muslims, driven by a crazy adventure film, called “Superdevi” which celebrates the heroic deeds of a poor slum-girl  assuming the superpowers of the avatars and Goddess Devi to fight crime. Hindu politicians exploit the theme and preaching the invincibility of the Hindu gods, they incite their followers to engage in bloody battle with Muslims, who had been their neighbors just a little while ago.

Just when you think enough of that gorish scenario, Suri is leading the reader into a very detailed and intimate “love” story, which describes the search of a young and bright female statistician Sarita for her husband Karun, who disappeared after attending a conference two weeks earlier. As chaos is breaking out around her, she reminiscence about her relationship, wondering why they hugged more than they kissed, with their “lovemaking remaining restricted above the waist.” So she has invented not only a heavenly star system mixed with pomegranates providing aphrodisiac power, she has also – as good statistician – been following the slow progress towards eventual success with precise entries into her diary.

What do you do with a character like Karun, whom we only meet through Sarita’s eyes and thoughts but who remains nothing more than a sweet nerd, a rather passive individual consumed by his own thoughts and problems? You invent a counterpart: In this case a gay Muslim called Jaz. He has wit and sophistication, charm and lust. He is well travelled, successful, ironic and seductive. Wow…but unfortunately he finds himself at the wrong side of the battle of Mumbai, as the Hindu masses are slaughtering the Muslim infidels.

Of course, he meets Sarita, who is still searching for her husband. The place is an abandoned aquarium where all fish have been destroyed except one lonely shark. As they make their way through the increasingly mad cityscape, the story takes on a black fairy tale character of surrounding of chaos and destruction takes place, and while those horrendous pictures of burned prisoners during “religious” ceremonies and the narrow escapes of our two heroes may become too much Bollywood for Western readers, the author leads them back to an ending which is at the same time tender and bittersweet.

So, who wonders, how professor of mathematics, teaching at University at America’s East Coast can write such an exciting story? For those who want to know, read the book (and then may be take a class online). But even for those who have read his earlier publications “The Death of Vishnu” (2001) and the “Age of Shiva” (2008) this is a great third strike they don’t want to miss.