March 30, 2020
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Pickled, Piquant

The farcical treatment of Tamil society is both delicate and deadly. All primary causes and debates are reduced to caricature; which, in truth is the reality of India.

Pickled, Piquant
Cool Cut
By Sharad P. Paul
Picador India Pages: 161; Rs. 195
Rarely do you get a book these days that doesn’t in some way try to outsmart others on the bookshelf. The inventive—read complicated—telling of a simple story is more important than straightforward narration. Cool Cut, however, is a book that refuses to invent a new medium of expression. It merely accepts that language exists; and uses it to convey a story of great human sentiment.

Three friends separated at an early age by unusual circumstances come together years later, a result of the sort of happy coincidence that make good Hindi movies. Love, longing, local politics, social mores mix in an easy narration that gives Sharad Paul’s Madras an intimate small-town portrait.

Indian culture—Tamil in this case—its complexities of caste and class, the difficult dilemmas and conflicts of south Indian politics are all treated as opportunities and hinges for the story. mgr, Karunanidhi, hijras, the language issue, marital taboos, incest—all appear in fleeting glimpses, and give the narrative its due as comic farce. The book is written at a sort of breathless pace. As if Paul, having discovered a precise story line and its rendering, is only willing to race to its quick and final denouement. At times, the result leaves the reader a bit exhausted, and yearning for more contemplative passages. However, the author’s farcical treatment of Tamil society is both delicate and deadly. In simplifying, he reduces all primary causes and debates to caricature; which in truth is the reality of India.

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