Thursday, October 09, 2008

On Reading Amitav Ghosh's "Sea of Poppies"

It's raining. We have recently finished Amitav Ghosh's "The Sea of Poppies" and had drawn close to the well-etched characters, their foibles, weaknesses, strengths, courage, etc. We think novels are a manifestation of how vulnerable we are, how inside us we are all alike. We like it when we draw close to a character in the story like Zachary Reid, his courage, his strength becomes ours too. Zachary Reid epitomizes the strength of character that he exhibits when Serang Ali tempts him to be a pirate. But that would be giving away the plot of the story, wouldn't it?

Deeti, Neel, and Jodu are other characters which came within reach, so much so that one could extend ones arms and touch them, feel one with them, and get inside their heads. The extensive bibliography provides references to the book that Amitav used for writing the book and it's nothing short of amazing the amount of research that must have gone into it.

Neel's transformation from a Raja to a convict and criminal and his serving of his cellmate shows the tender caring side of him. Though brought up in luxury as a Raja he makes the transition from luxury of the palace to that of the cooped up cell inside the slave ship without rebellion and accepts it as his destiny.

The novel works in several parallel levels, independently, and then brings all the characters together in the slave ship to reach its climatic scene, the one enacted against the backdrop of the storm.

Well done, Amitav, loved to read this!

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