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Why Su-prose? "Su" in Sanskrit is a prefix for "good". This is a place where we will discuss and analyze prose (with a South Asian Connection) - that which is good, awesome, excellent, and maybe rant about prose that could be better.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Certainly Not His Last Song…

From the land of the Kama Sutra comes the story of a young woman, her life, her triumphs, her losses, her sorrows and her joys. The Last Song of Dusk brings together tantalizing and mellifluous language and a touching and heartrending story of love and life. A plot that is simple yet intense traces the story of a young woman, the protagonist, after she leaves her hometown of Udaipur to marry Vardhaman, a wealthy young doctor in Mumbai.
A debut novel by Sidharth Shangvi, Last Song of Dusk takes it readers through a melodious journey filled with a mix of emotions, bliss, love, lust, sadness, and revolves around three main characters, all of whom have tremendous depth and detail.
Anuradha, the protagonist and her husband Vardhaman are the lead players in this tale. With a transitioning Bombay, influenced by the British Raj, in the backdrop, they meet and marry and procreate. In the midst of all this is Divibai, the hateful mother in law who is the anti-thesis of all things good, and her pet parrot that strangely says everything that Divibai thinks.
In spite of Divibai, life is beautiful for Anuradha and Vardhaman. Mohan is their little son, who has brought even more beauty and joy into their lives. Alas this is not for very long. Calamity befalls Mohan, who passes away. Shangvi portrays this demise in a very dramatic and heartbreaking manner.
Circumstances force Anuradha to go to her parents home to recoup. Here the third character in the novel joins the story. The untamed and wild Nandini Hariharan whose world is full of optimism, ambition, and drive, nothing can stop her. She becomes a surrogate daughter to Anuradha who takes Nandini back to Bombay.
What happens after Anuradha and Nandini return to Bombay, forms the crux of the novel. … The back story of a homosexual Englishman and Indian who refuses to come out of the closet is thrown in gracefully, and brings verve to the main plot.
Shangvi’s characters are well drawn up and profound. The melodious and delightful lady Anuradha, the calm and sophisticated sahib Vardhaman and the wild and reckless Nandini, each are well thought out and completely contrasting characters who in unison make beautiful music. The rest of the characters in the novel are beautifully laid out as well.
A very unusual setting, Shangvi brings to life the Bombay of yesteryears, the salon lifestyle and the memsahibs. For a change, no mention of the slums of Bombay or the poverty that it soaks in. The lifestyles of the eccentric, rich and popular are brought out charmingly in this narrative.
A strong element of fantasy is magnificently interwoven into a poignant love story – Dariya Mahal, the house with passion, a woman’s lure for leopards, a girl who walks on water, supernatural music that triggers happenings and many other intonations that are surprisingly apposite to the situation.
This book will be republished in June 2006 in the US after, being on the bestseller list in other parts of the world. Shanghvi, who was 26 years old when his bestselling debut novel “Last Song of Dusk” was honored with U.K’s, Betty Trask award and Italy’s Premio Grinzane Cavour.
Do we have another Hari Kunzru in the making? Labeled by the media as the next Arundhati Roy, or Salman Rushdie version 7.0, Shangvi lives in Bombay and Northern California.
Shangvi using his poetic, elegiac, rythmic and harmonious use of language and a strong and eventful plot seduces his readers with The Last Song of Dusk. Shangvi entertains, thrills, distresses, surprises and provokes his readers with wit, charm and incredulity. This certainly is not Shangvi’s last song, looks like the concert is just beginning.
Anuradha’s throat felt like a live coal. She looked up and tears raced down her cheeks. Where are the small mercies? Right then, through the tearful prisms of her gaze, she saw a most spectacular sight. There, in the distance, in a raggedy blue gown, hair cut short as a tramp’s, arms bamboolike, feet making long strides, was an adolescent girl walking over Lake Pichola. And what do you know! She was as lovely as the moonlight stuck in puddles. No, Anuradha argued with herself, this cannot be. I’ve been asked to believe much in the last few months. But a girl walking on water? No! I won’t buy that. To confirm her doubt, she ran breathlessly down to the pergola, where she motioned to the girl. The ruffian looked up as slowly as she could: her hair was wild but secre in it’s wildness, and her stride was strikingly feline.
“Were you really walking on water?” Anuradha asked her when she was in earshot.
“Walking on water?” the girl said, entirely unflustered. “That’s nothing! You should see how I do it on land.”

Book: The Last Song of Dusk
Author: Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 336 pages

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