When and where you read a book should not be an influencing factor in your appreciation of it. Or should it?
Reading Madhav Mathur’s intriguing novel “Dvarca” in India (where I live), during the worst days of demonetisation, when millions of people found themselves with no access to their own cash, added a definite piquancy, I have to admit. India in late 2016 – now very early 2017 – is a far cry from the Dvarca of the 22nd century, but I couldn’t help finding disturbing parallels as I read. Growing intolerance of what are dubbed “minority” religions here (read Islam), the brazen way Hindu-fundamentalist trolls harass people on line, and, of course, the wholesale buying into the demonetisation move, with dissenters being labelled anti-national…again, I repeat, we are, thank goodness, far far away from 22nd century Dvarca. But it makes you think.
And it’s a chilling thought.
Madhav Mathur’s Dvarca is a world where the (Hindu) state controls every aspects of one’s life, projecting images – literally – of a supposedly ideal world into your head, and monitoring every aspect of your life, from your moment of birth to your place in society. The state is all-seeing, and projects itself as all-knowing and all-caring, and the citizens of Dvarca are expected to follow the dictates of society without any questions.
The parallels with “1984” are telling, but even more frightening, for this is a world where love has been eradicated, where sexual contact is prohibited, and where women are impregnated by the state, at a time of the state’s choosing, with a baby designed for and by the state. The scene when Jyoti is made pregnant is terrifying – little more than state ordered rape.
I found the book disturbing and thought-provoking, and every time I said “No, don’t be silly, this is just fiction…” I’d remember the millions of people getting up in the winter dark to stand in serpentine queues to try and get access to their own money, and then I’d be even more disturbed.
Initially, as a non-Indian, and a non-Hindu, some of the more Sanskrit-based words and religious concepts were a bit of a barrier, but with time, they became more familiar.
A good, interesting, thought-provoking read – especially in these disturbing times we live in.
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