I do not remember the last time I was grinning, smiling, excited, and as eager to know what happens next – as I was – when I was reading Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. For a while now, and age probably has got something to do with it – I have ceased to call things – life-changing. Perhaps, as we go along in our life and get to know that lesser life remains, perhaps there is less of life to change.
For two days, I lived an experience similar to that when I used to read story-books, a long time ago. That experience has a few determining qualities:
First, it creates heart-wrenching curiosity to know what happens next. There is excitement due to the dark shroud of dread, fused with a bright tube of hope. You feel all the emotions that the author wants you to feel. There is a sense of freedom in those slavish moment.
Second, the experience allows you to allow yourself to allow irrationality that we have absorbed from this world. And after we have allowed this willing suspension of disbelief, the fantastical journey becomes your own and you travel beside every character as you do with people in your everyday commute.
Finally, it remains with you. Stories told well have a lasting impact on you. Think about the grandmother-generalisation, if you will. Her stories are the ones that have remained with you for ever. Grandparents in general and grandmothers in specific are prone to developing skills of good story-telling.
This is the first book by Salman Rushdie that I have ever read, and like most others, I know more about his infamous book and the surrounding controversies than anything else. If you have been following my reviews for a while, I usually refrain from superlatives, but this is the work of a genius.
Potential Spoilers Ahead
The story runs at three levels. In order that they were revealed to me: The first one and the most enjoyable is the story itself – the vents, the characters and their lives and accidents. Below it, not very well camouflaged is, a political and social level, which an adult will want to uncover. The partially concealed metaphors make you want to probe within the store of your mind about relationships, meanings and linkages. The last one, is philosophical. This is a layer that can be said to be common in almost every book, because of the subtle nature of philosophy and its ability to be found almost anywhere. Yet, in this book, it stands strong. It is forceful and has an enduring after-taste.
The meat of it, however, is still in the story and the adventure. It is fully fantastical, curiously exaggerated , and a challenge to your imagination at all times. The language is young and flows like child-like curiosity and mischief.
It is not, as I have now stopped calling things – life-changing – but it is definitely a book that may allow you to change your perspectives about some things in life.
In the worst case, it is a beautiful story – and this is such a wonderful worst case to have!