Book Review on ‘The Death of Vishnu’ by Manil suri

by anjudas

It was from a supplement- Literary Review of ‘The Hindu’, I came to know about the writer Manil Suri. And the first book i bought in his trilogy was the book which was titled ‘The Age of Siva’. After 3 years this week i got the book ,’The Death of vishnu’, first one in the trilogy from an old book shop in cochin.

The book revolves around the central character Vishnu who was living on a landing of an apartment building in bombay. Suri mentions in the front page of the novel that the novel started with the death of an actual man named Vishnu who lived on the steps of the building in which he grew up. From vishnu the author picturises the other characters living in the apartment.
The story talks about the religious divisions of contemporary india without touching all the details of it. In the opening of the novel suri takes us to the family of Pathaks and Asranis. They fights over vishnu’s treatment and the cost of ambulance. They even fight each other in the same way for the stealing of ghee in their shared kitchen.The other main family is of Mr. Jalal. Vinod Taneja is also a resident in one of the apartment. In between comes the story of lovers- Kavita and Salim which reminds us of bollywood movies.
As Indian urban life is known to us the readers are able to relate to the story easily. From the beautiful relationship of Vinod Taneja and his wife the story leads us to the religious pursuit of Mr Jalal and then to the eloping of Kavita and Salim and kavita’s return as if nothing has happened. It also shows how a mob attacks a person based on their religion and how all the happenings were covered from police easily.
The caricatural portraits of life Suri brings here is different and interesting. The paanwalla,cigarettewalla and other minor characters comes to the lead within a short time and go back to minor characters towards the end of the novel.
Mr.Jalal is one who always mocked his wife’s unthinkable faith, finds himself drawn toward religious experience later. He decides to share vishnu’s suffering and to sleep next to him on the landing. There he has a vision- he feels vishnu as a god and Jalal consider himself as the prophet. His episode is the point at which the story turns serious and that area was not easy to digest though these type of things happen even today. The harsh reality of people fighting over a domestic issue which then turn to a religious issue. Here we can say that this apartment is a microcosm of India as a whole.