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Excess Baggage

Priya Basil scavenges an olla podrida from the literary ragbag. Like love and smell, talent, or a lack of it, can't be hidden.

Excess Baggage
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Ishq And Mushq
By Priya Basil
Doubleday Pages: 400; Rs: 495
This pedestrian first novel traces the misadventures of Karam and Sarna across three continents when one tiny village would have sufficed as ambit for their pettifogging. Priya Basil scavenges an olla podrida from the literary ragbag. Her Karam echoes Woody Allen’s Leonard Zelig. Eager to locate himself somewhere in history, Karam invariably discovers that history has passed him by. Typhoid fells him in Lahore’s bloodbath of 1947. When he comes to in Amritsar, the subcontinent has already been severed. He’s late for Elizabeth II’s coronation in June 1953, delayed by his creator’s clumsy contrivances. Sarna, the buxom sorceress of spices, is meant to outdo Tita of Like Water for Chocolate. And the reclusive Oskar, with his hoard of stories, sadly lacks a little tin drum.

"Eventually he fell asleep to the lullaby of indigestion gurgled by Sarna’s stomach." There are 400 pages of lines like this. Where have all the editors gone?

When Sarna left Amritsar for Mombasa as a new bride, her mother whispered this warning, "Remember, there are only two things you can’t hide—Ishq and Mushq: Love and Smell." Basil tries, with no success, to mask her ineptitude in verbiage. Like love and smell, talent, or a lack of it, can’t be hidden.

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