Out of Godís Oven: Travels in a Fractured Land By Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa, Viking, Rs 450
There is no dearth of writers ready to commit such thoughts to paper as might interest readers and bring in profits. But Out of Godís Oven is that rare book that will be remembered long after other, lesser works have been forgotten.
Written by Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa, this book is difficult to classify. Is it a simple travelogue, or is it much more than that' Be that as it may, it is unlike the works of some Westerners who write about India without understanding its complexity. Moraes is a man of letters, well-known in India and England, while Srivatsa, who trained as an architect, has lately established herself as a writer. Though the bookís two collaborators come from different cultural and religious backgrounds, they have similarly acute powers of observation and are united in their love of travelling.
It took them 6 long years to write this book. It is divided into seven parts, four by Moraes and the rest by Srivatsa, which are arranged alternatively, a stratagem that gives the book a sense of variety. Each of these chapters is a self-contained piece of prose. But preceding them is an introduction, as well as a prologue, which focusses on the recent communal riots in Gujarat and laments how the Western media and British readers seem to have lost interest in India. The book draws a curtain on Ayodhya ó a reminder that the entire complex of thought that held together a multi-cultural and pluralistic society like India all these years is fast coming apart.
Travelling all over India, Moraes and Srivatsa interview the men and women who matter ó politicians, religious leaders, police officers, public servants, film-directors, poets, editors and the like. Ominously, most of them believe that something is terribly wrong with the country. On the one hand are the civil wars which threaten to rip apart the country in Bihar, Assam and the Northeast, and on the other, rampant corruption in all walks of life which is rendering the country hollow from within.
The rise of a consumerist middle-class has deepened the disparities between the rich and poor, and if these were not enough, the sudden ďadvent of a new and brutalized form of Hinduism under a government that encouraged unbridled communal hatredĒ is threatening the very existence of the country. The book maps areas which need to be looked into immediately if the country is not to take a turn for the worse.
Out of Godís Oven also sketches the many facets of Indian life, mired in corruption, hatred, regionalism, and religious and political bigotry. Innumerable characters flit across the pages, who are better depicted than many fictional characters. The book is extremely readable and it is difficult to say who among Moraes and Srivatsa is more humourous in depicting the many quaintnesses of Indian life. In sum, Out of Godís Oven is one of the better books in the non-fiction category to have come out this year.