Cryptic Clue For 6 Down Of The Daily Crossword
Published: Mon, 08/01/2011 - 06:50 Updated: Thu, 02/23/2012 - 10:45
Author: Arjun Shekhar
Book: A Flawed God
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: Rs 250
It’s not just corporates. The entire planet is on skid row. Because the share market and its high priests have a say in almost everything we do today
Amit Sengupta Delhi
It’s just that pause sounds implausible as Amla, but that’s her name. And she brands him Sancho, as plausible as Sancho Panza. A bumbling, not-so-bumbling, eclectic, not-so-eclectic, desexualised and yet not-so-anti-arousal, really, when a hot enduring kiss arrives suddenly on a rain-soaked terrace with layers of washed clothes between their wet bodies. A strange surge of vitality and life-affirmation arrives with the rain and the kiss and the discovery of groping truth under the female shirt.
Reminds you of a tense, unrequited non-rain terrace sequence between Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, with washed clothes on the line, in the backdrop of Mussolini’s first meeting with Hitler in that amazingly brilliant film set in the early Italian fascism of the 1930s: A Special Day by Ettore Scola.
Then, Pause, like Sancho, like the god with flaws, transforms. This is a metamorphosis which is equally unstated and subtle in the backdrop of Indian capitalism’s moronic in-house appraisal forms recording the documented narrative of meritocracy, efficiency and productivity of employees; and thereby, your social status of cooked-up success in the hierarchy of this incestuous and mediocre corporate ghetto.
This globalised world is suffering with the shrinking worldview of a tunnel vision. Perhaps, that is why, when this crime fiction has not even begun its early pages, Sancho praises this super starlet who scores the best appraisals. Pause loves the half-eaten words like a woman who smells of lemon. Hence, after the Ode to Pause, you enter the first pangs of literary elegance: “All of a sudden she blushed and on her dusky skin the effect was marvellous. I can’t name the colour that her cheeks took on but there was a hint of a sunset, a dollop of chocolate, a goblet of claret, and, yes, there was that glow in her large fawn eyes that suddenly made the dim cafeteria look as cheerful as a night sky lit up by a million fireworks.”
Later, before the kiss on the terrace sequence, the smell of lemon oozes desire. (“You smell lovely,” he says). She is objective: the aroma is basically all about that typical Kerala stew on the stove. No, our romantic, idealist, soul-searching protagonist murmurs: “It’s like the smell of first rain on parched earth…” “But it’s raining buddhu,” she says. And you know, she knows too well the inner zigzag bylanes of lucid rain-soaked rivers in the beautiful backwaters of Kerala.
Hence, when Sancho chases his instinct to run, and enters a nameless, nocturnal expanse of clueless, signless Istanbul, the secret crossword clue of azure rock enters the morning maze of crafted carpets, which are basically Kashmiri carpets made in India (not China!). The crossword puzzle is no more in the realm of science fiction anymore. The first clue: an anonymous letter which hits him from the blue even when his poor appraisal blues have just about pushed him into yet another phase of critical self-reflection. Even if you are not a careerist, life is not a John Lennon song.
A typewritten letter with tiny script, which he remembers by heart, has been sent to him by the ‘Master Craftsman’ on behalf of the ‘Progress in Work Collective’. “You may have heard of us,” says the note, like a letter from the underground.
They are a guild of “organisation behaviour scientists who run an invisible initiative to put the organisation’s staff at the centre of its strategy”. Does it make sense? ‘The Collective’ has chosen Sanchit for a special, sensitive, sublime project in a secret location to be notifed in the Turkish Daily News — cryptic clue for 6 down of the daily crossword.
“The secrecy around the location is of extreme importance. A group of diehard, Rightwing corporate shareholders have been trying to disrupt our efforts for a long time now. And they will stop at nothing. This caucus seems to take us more seriously than we ourselves do…”
It’s not just companies. In A Flawed God, “the entire planet is on skid row. Because, unfortunately, the share market and its high priests have a say in almost everything we do today.”
The manufactured consent is at once a kaleidoscopic grid of multiple clashes and vested interests of concocted civilisations and artificial cultures. There are carnivorous corporates and parasitic political lobbies and entrenched cartels united and untied at the same time, cold-blooded like cold blood, slimy and sinister like oil-for-blood seduction machines, rewriting all the folk narratives of the Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Besides, this is a God “whose basic algorithm is flawed”.
So Pause is not the clue really, is she? Or is she not? The end is never predictable, despite the most obsessive of our death wishes. A Flawed God eludes the end, or the beginning of the end, even as the beginning seems so pauseless and implausible. And this has nothing to do with the Sisyphean pause.
Almost young, almost anonymous, Arjun Shekhar’s first book of brilliance, located in real time and space of invisible corporate intrigue in contemporary India, looking for a tongue with black salt in written prose. You can touch the tangible and yet feel surprised. You can enter the maze and the zigzag, and yet realise that the subliminal is familiar. Between the opposites, there is fabulous movement, mobility, materialism. The corporate allegory of market forces as extended metaphor is at once a mirror of didactic capitalism, stunningly cracked and transparent at the same time. That is why, Arjun’s book breaks the self-conscious resistance and threshold of the first novel, and becomes an original chronicle of a flawed god foretold.
I only wish Sanchit the Sancho would be a bit more macho. I wish he wouldn’t be blowing his nose — everywhere and here so much, yet again too often. It’s not even anti-hero. Besides, it’s unhygienic, unaesthetic, unliterary, unmasculine, un-007, undesirable, unalien, unrolemodel, and oh, so unsexy!
…The American Withdrew her hand hastily and put in on her heart. I could feel her breathing heavily as I quickly steered her out. Outside, Stepney was nowhere to be seen. The Springsteen tape had run out and we hurried towards the car in the eerie stillness of
Once in the car, her body began to shake, all colour drained out of her face and the mole started a wild jitterbug. The head of McSinki, principal shareholder in many firms, she, who’d bankrupted scores of firms, axed thousands of employees, ordered dozens of executions, had the shivers; I sensed it would take her a long time to recover from her meeting with Rana. At the same time, I noticed the hint of a smile as well. The global cowgirl had not only withstood the provincial outlaw, she’d made a deal with him. To her it must have felt like she’d played with fire and got away without getting burnt…
A Flawed God (excerpts)