Thursday, Dec 01, 2022
Outlook.com
Review

A Fancy Bird Too Heavy To Fly

There's a lot here—dysfunctional Muslims, the magic of numbers, psychotic depression. But terrorism? No.

A Fancy Bird
Too Heavy To Fly
Jitender Gupta
A Fancy Bird Too Heavy To Fly
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

If God’s Little Soldier isn’t about terrorism, what is it about? A lot of things: growing up in middle-class Bombay, a dysfunctional liberal Muslim family, the magic of numbers, the certitudes of faith, the unreliability of love, the incertitudes of the stockmarket, psychotic depression, life in a Trappist monastery, extremism, the anti-abortion movement in America, arms-dealing, the Bhakti poet Kabir. And if there’s one thing that ties all these disparate strands together, it’s one man’s quest for the meaning of life.

That man is Zia Khan, introduced to us as a child in the arms of his fundamentalist Muslim aunt Zubeida (who, in one of the paradoxes Nagarkar delights in, has left her husband to nurse an impossible devotion to the actor Dilip Kumar). Zia is the spoilt son of rich parents, precociously self-aware, resentful of his asthmatic brother Amanat, who gets all his mother’s attention, and madly in love with the Bollywood child-star Sagari. His childhood occupies a wonderful first section of the novel, a beginning so compelling that it alone is worth the price of admission. If the rest of the novel doesn’t live up to the promise of the first ninety pages, it’s only because Nagarkar—as that list of his key plot elements suggests—tries to do too much.

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