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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The Quarantine Papers by Kalpish Ratna
As part of its shortlist for the Vodafone Crossword Book Awards 2010, Crossword selected the book The Quarantine Papers by author Kalpish Ratna in its English Fiction category, which is based on the events and violence that follow the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya.
Publishers: Harper Collins
No. of pages: 404
On the cover jacket:
'That first Sunday in December, while the Prime Minister in India dozed in Delhi, lesser things happened to lesser people in Bombay.
Mohammad Yunus doused his clothes with kerosene and struck a match.
Balkrishna More leaned out over the frenzied maha-aarati in the street and jumped to his death.
In a shuttered room in Girgaum, three old men waited for an answer.
Enraptured, Radhika and Anwar were oblivious to the nasal monotone on BBC. Who saw it first? It was there, happening right before them.
A saffron ant crawled up the black dome. Then one more. Then another. Then a swarm of them. And then madness spilled every which way.
In 303, Nandanvan Apartments, Ratan Oak looked out of the window and discovered he'd been living in the wrong house all his life.
The Quarantine Papers,
a story of love and death in Bombay, Kalpish Ratna weaves history and medicine, passion and betrayal, music and murder in a novel where the palimpsest that is Bombay gets written over and again in hate and is sometimes redeemed in love.'
As the Babri Masjid is razed in Ayodhya, brick by ancient brick, Ratan Oak stumbles upon a corpse at the Kipling House in Bombay. It is the beginning of an unraveling for him, of the submerged identity he has sought to suppress all his life: that of his great-grandfather, Ramratan Oak.
Grappling with this tandem existence, Ratan realises that the communal violence which consumes his city mirrors the turbulence it experienced in Ramratan's times. For, concealed in the scientific discoveries of the plague epidemic of 1897 is the terrifying truth about the dead woman of Kipling House. A novel that perfectly balances character and pace, The Quarantine Papers dissects the compulsion of a hate that corrupts, as it trail a doomed love story from nineteenth-century Bombay into our own day.
* For those of you who will buy the book from the Crossword website, you can get it at a discounted rate of INR 421.
- Debolina Raja Gupta