Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Outlook.com
Review

On Vermillion Skies

Half a century’s storms buffet lives in south Asia in this simply told, sweeping narrative

On Vermillion Skies
On Vermillion Skies
outlookindia.com
2018-08-18T10:25:48+05:30

Boats and boatmen, green eyes that are actually grey, lost children, gunfire—Arif Anwar’s The Storm is a jigsaw of fragments spanning pre-Partition India and 1970’s America. Each chapter of the book follows a different family and in all of them, some kind of storm is imminent. The most obvious are the terrifying storms that rack Bangladesh, blowing out of the Bay of Bengal and sweeping everything with it. Then there is the storm caused by Partition—the communal destruction spread by the division of a country—and allied to that the problems posed by the Japanese attacks on India and Burma during World War II. Last but not least, is a modern kind of storm, the kind that afflicts someone trying to get his green card in America while becoming increasingly aware that time is running out, a father fighting to stay with his half-American daughter.  

Anwar’s story expects the reader to wait before all the fragments fall into place—though some answers can be guessed at, like Sharyar’s true identity, for example.  There is a remarkable similarity between the women characters who, in one way or another, are divided from their menfolk—Honufa by the sea, Claire by war and Val through choice. Additionally, Honufa and Claire are linked by a common event—the crash-landing of a Jap­anese fighter, though Honufa is then a child and, as we learn later, originally a Hindu.

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