Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 07/30/18 9:21 AM

Book Review: The Night of Happiness by Tabish Khair

The Night of Happiness by Tabish Khair.

A businessman works late on a rain-drenched evening with his faithful right-hand man. He thinks it`s only decent that he drops the man to his home. So he does. The man, for his part, thinks it only decent to invite his boss upstairs for a bowl of halwa. So he does.

Something happens in that small apartment of Ahmed`s,   where his boss Anil Mehrotra is forced to partake of some halwa. Something strange. And the rest of the book is Mehrotra`s attempt to resolve the puzzle that was put before him on that Shab-e-baraat, that Night of Happiness.

This slim volume punches above its weight and what`s more, wins the day, too. As Mehrotra unravels Ahmed`s past and looks deeper into his present, the reader is afforded a glimpse into Mehrotras life, which of course, couldn`t be more different than Ahmed`s.

Some lines like these convey so much: The rain spoke with greater harshness in Ahmed`s part of the city. The humour is dry and discreet as when describing the crush of people at the golf club: Soon the place was congested. As members and their guests wanted to meet and greet people, it became impossible to hold a table without being greeted by all kinds of acquaintances all the time. The only way one could have a private conversation now was to go golfing.

But my jaw-drop moment came with the deconstruction  of Shakespeare`s work; this is stuff  I have never read before or since!

To my mind, says Mehrotra, Shakespeare was just finding ways out of the contradictions and impasses that he got his characters into. In his tragedies, he usually resolved them by killing off people.  One of his methods was to distract the reader or the viewer with some powerful poetry, so that when the lazy resolution of crisis came by (the chap in the play was blitzed by something or the other), the viewer or reader was still too bedazzled to notice or complain.

fictionIn the Jungles of the NightTabish KhairThe Night of Happiness

Sheila Kumar • July 30, 2018

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