Friday, April 26, 2013

The Foreigner - Arun Joshi

Arun Joshi was born in 1939, has a Masters degree in Management from the M.I.T., wrote five novels and short stories and was selected for the Sahitya Academy Award. He is considered an author of rare sensitivity and talent. If friend Vinod had not discovered him, I would never have known of him. Which would have been a pity because 'The Foreigner' is an exceptional tale that stands good even today and will stand the test of time for a long time to come. It is a tale of love. And as with all tales of love, it is also about betrayal, hate, jealousy and retribution.

The protagonist Surender Oberoi (a.k.a. the foreigner) is slippery and rationalises himself out of all situations and commitments. He cannot get involved, believes in detachment. Having no family of his own and no real beliefs or joy or sorrow, he is a loose end and has no moorings and perhaps no purpose, but for his academics. Sindi as he is called, is an Indian who was brought up by his uncle in Kenya after his parents' death, and then moves to London where he has a series of intense relationships that leave him drained. Just when he does not have any more stomach for relationships he finds June, a pretty young American girl, and there begins another intense relationship that he tries to stifle with his detachment. After he rejects her or manipulates himself out of the relationship June gets into a relationship with Babu Khemka, a naive young Indian who comes from a rich family in Delhi and is controlled by his domineering father from Delhi. But Babu wants to be free and experiment and he dives headlong into love not knowing that it can cause pain too. The story begins with the shocking news of Babu's death and the derailment of Sindi's life after that event - and ends in Delhi where Sindi opts to live. All the reasons why people fall in love - escape for Babu, a sense of purpose and meaning for her life for June and Sindi's own fear of the most sublime of emotions - comes across.

It is a book that says much and one could perhaps gain more by reading it again as Arun Joshi packs it with thought, human sensibility and a lot of honesty. His style is direct and he gets right to the point. But where he really scores is in getting to the innermost emotions of people which is why his slippery character Sindi can be easily identified by all of us. Just as Sindi thinks he is a foreigner to every place, one who belongs to no one and no where, somewhere deep down we all feel that I suppose. It is resolved well too. Again, just as I felt with another writer whose writing was a bit similar, one of this generation, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, I found Arun Joshi's book taking me on a visual journey and by the end of it, I felt as if I had seen the entire movie, scene by scene. The books of Arun Joshi, Vinod says, are difficult to acquire, as they are out of print and he acquired this one in his used books market at Abids, but if you can get your hands on it, do read it. It is as good as any English fiction writing you can get from Indian writers and shows far more depth, style and sensitivity than so many who are so much better known and hyped in India. Reminds me of Murakami slightly though I don't know why.

No comments: