Synopsis

REAL CROC TEARS
Set like a medieval tapestry, this fantastic novel offers a rich petit point set with animals, people, trees, the sea, prodigal sons and warring parents, passionate romances and gothic fortresses. It begins with the return of Nikhil Figgis, a young theatre director from New York, to Chennai. Within minutes of his arrival, a taxi driver makes off with his suitcase that contains a precious copy of the book, Georgetown, which he wishes to adapt into a play.
We then meet Apu, who runs a detective agency. Nikhil hires her to locate S.K. Naidu—who turns out to be a cross between Salinger and Miss Havisham, lives in a fortress-like house and entertains no visitors. He is also Nikhil’s long-lost father and the author of Georgetown.
Delicately, Murari weaves Apu, her family and Nikhil’s estranged American wife, Renee, into the plot. Human relationships and a comic under plot that involves a crocodile in Nikhil’s bathtub intertwine like a tangle of bright skeins. The crocodile wraps itself around Nikhil’s heart and when, at the end, he releases it into a river, both their Homeric journeys come to a dramatic close. In terms of sheer audacity and the liberties he takes with his tale, few can match Murari’s Arrangements of Love. OUTLOOK.

  LE COEUR ENTRE DEUX MONDES
A partir des themes de la famille et de l’exil, de un roman enivrant sur I’Inde d’aujourd’hui
LES ARRANGEMENTS DE L’AMOUR
Traduit de L’anglais (Inde) par Pierre Charras. Mercure de France 24 €
Il ne taut pas simplement lire Les Arrangements de l’amour mais d’abord lui preter l’oreille. Comme on écoule un chant, dont la melodie nous est radicaleiment étrangère. Comme on se laisse envelopper par une sidérante mélopee. Nous voilà en Inde, du cote de Madras. Les rues exhalent ses effluves, ceux des bhajis et des dosas prëparës dans quelque gargote et ses partums venus de la fraicheur des jardins ou s’enhardit la fleur de Jasmin que les jeunes femmes aiment a porter au poignet. Un peu plus loin, a peine sorti de la ville, l’horizon rosit sous le soleil qui darde ses rayons sur les champs de piments rouges, rivallsant avec l’éclat des plantations de manguiers.
C’est dans cet univers saturé d’odeurs et de couleurs que Nikhul, un jeune homme d’ori- gine indienne né et élevé aux Etats-Unis débarque un jour pour y chercher le pere qu’il croyait mort. Une quête racontee a quatre voix. Celle de Nikhil, le fils: celle de la mere, Susie, qui a émigré aux Etats-Unis, fuyant sa culture, reniant jusqu’à son propre prénom Indien; celle du pére, reclus, inconsolable depuis le depart de Susie, qui ne sait plus ce qu’amour veut dire et enfin celle d’une jeune detective, Apu, la belle Indienne. Des voix qu se relaient les unes les autres, confessant leurs amours dans la secret de leur sollioque.
Cette qu du pere sert de pretext a Timeri N Murari pour s’amuser a travers le personnage de Nikhui, a mettre en scene non pas le choc mais le frotterment de deux civilisations que ne séparent pas seulement quelques milliers de kilométres. Une societe liberal face a une société administree, le mariage d’amour contre le mariage arrange, le rationnel contre la superstition... L’affaire semble entendue. Et pourtant Timeri N. Murari considère ces deux mondes dans leur complexite, avec autant d’agacements que de tendresse contenue. LA CROIX
COUP DE COEUR

MADRAS MON AMOUR
Qu’il soit rarement a la hauteur de nos espérances, se fasse attendre, blesse ou transporte, on n’échappe pas a l’amour. Les trois personnages de Timeri N. Murari, ex-joumaliste au < Guardian et auteur du best-seller Taj > se debattent entre raison et sentiments. Nikhil, metteur en scene indien elevé a New York, pas vraiment remis de son recent divorce avec une actrice blonde, débarque a Madras pour y chercher son père, un mystérieux écrivain disparu de la circulation. Pour le retrouver, il fait appel a Apu, detective privee sexy et émancipée qui, après la perte de son grand amour, a épousé le candidat ideal selon sa mere un riche Indien installe aux Etats-Unis et en quête d’une épouse en sari. C’est aussi cc dont parle l’auteur; l’oscillation perpetuelle de ses concitoyens entre modernité et tradition. On reve de culture américaine et de liberte, mais on retoune au pays pour se chercher une épouse (proposée sur un plateau par les parents), on vit a Chicago ou a Houston, mais pas question de renoncer au principe de la dot (pourtant interdite en Inde !). A Madras, malgré so bonne volonte, le jeune auteur se sentira aussi paumé que le crocodile qu’il a frouvé dans la baignoire de sa chambre d’hôtel ! C’est drôle, grave et léger a la fois, comme l’amour, parfois. ELLE
MANY FACETS OF LOVE.
THE TITLE of this book, with the added adjunct that it is "a rollicking exploration of love in its many guises" can make you want to read it for the wrong reasons. You may know that the author has written for the stage, directed (I didn’t. The idiot AP did) his own film called The Square Circle. that he also won acclaim for directing (yes I did) the stage presentation at Leicester Haymarket Theatre; above all, that his earlier novel Taj got Bill Aitken to say in the Sunday Observer that "only a masterly historical novelist like Timeri Murari could skate so teasingly near the lip of the volcano. The structure of the novel is as fascinating as the building it describes". Or, in the words of The Telegraph that it was "an expertly crafted novel with richly textured details, especially of violence and eroticism".
The promise of "a rollicking exploration of love" in the new book therefore seemed to suggest the possibility of a rather facetious comedown. Actually, it turned out to be nothing of the kind. For a long time I had kept looking at the book from afar and was loath to pick it up. When I finally did, I could not put it down. It grips you not for its lust, but its sadness, a veiled sense of the distance between relationships. It is an exploration of identity; love and sex come only as incidentals to the search for not necessarily sexual but personal, individual freedom. That too is suffused with a lingering sense of always feeling apart as an alien in those caught by the almost unthinking compulsion to opt for the American dream and those who are left behind. .
This sense of the other is implicit even in the construction of the book. The four main characters look at their involvements with each other and the course that events take from their own points of view. It is a theatrical device; it heightens the effect, but it also gives you a four-dimensional insight into events as they determine the course of each individual's inter-action with the other. There is Sushima in her American reincarnation as Susie. In one wild but definitive moment she leaves a husband, a tradition, a country behind and carries away an unborn child with her to an American lover and a life, as she says, of freedom. It is the fulfilment of a dream she would constant1y have as a child of wanting to find a way out of the net that would lie between her and the sky through which she would never find the opening to fly out.
But as her Indian husband would recall when he could finally share the trauma with that then unborn son who finds his way back to his roots, "'I had a strange sensation, an unexpected emotion at that moment I envied them. How often can it happen in life that people, strangers from the far ends of the earth should have the great good fortune to meet and fall instantly in love and lust?" That is S.K Naidu. the father left behind, a famous author whose book the son finds wrapped in a red saree in his mother's trunk left lying in the loft as a requiem to the past That is what sets off the son's trail back to Madras, now called Chennai, where past and present mingle in the great warmth of a reunion with an unremembered father. Nikhil, alias Nicky, a son he did know existed. A fact he seeks to blot out even after knowing, till the natural bond begins to bridge the unnatural distance, and even the defiant hurt recluse of a father begins to mellow with a sense of love regained.
There is Nicky, the American's own awareness of being different and permanently "the lone brown in a classroom, on a baseball field or a train …I had existed always with a secret fear of rejection.’ He comes to India to find both his father and author of the hidden manuscript called "Georgetown". He finds it ideal for a stage production he has in mind. In the process he accepts Indian life, like the surf on the sea "rhythmically soothing and comforting ...there was something so patient in its ebb and flow, a few million years of wearing down the shores, licking away the sands." Nicky does go back to the U.S., but before becoming only Nikhil and finally, Nikhil Naidu.
The so-called rollicking exploration of love is even sadder in the case of Apu, the daring but only partially daring young lissom, dark beauty of a detective who discovers India for Nikhil, but loses her heart to confusion – between a lost remembered love and a desperate desire to seek redemption, again with a near Indian millionaire, ‘a citizen of the U.S.A’, say her relatives in awed terms, only to find that he is part of an international animal-poaching enterprise. Perhaps Timeri Murari’s final judgment on identity is contained in that little priceless observation about British rule – ‘I thought they had enriched India intellectually, while raping her at the same time. That was the way of all relationships.’ SAHARA TIME.
A CHENNAI MYSTERY
THERE is a novel by William Faulkner balled The Sound and the Fury in which he narrated events through the experiences of different characters, Roshomon-like, moving from one mind to the next, one heart to the next. It resulted in a heart-breaking classic. Timeri N Murari uses the same method in his book - a style of structure, mind you, which is by no means easy to pull off successfully. That is, however, an interesting feature of The Arrangements of Love. After the initial impatience the reader might feel, and the occasional confusion, the voyeuristic feeling of travelling through four peoples thoughts and emotions, is quite delicious. .
The story is an unusual mystery of sorts, which unfolds as a journey of a young American-born Indian, a writer of plays, who's looking for his estranged father in Chennai. It's the first time "Nikhil/Nicky" has stepped into India because his mother has raised him with the conviction that India has nothing that's not despicable in it. His father, like him is a writer, but one of great repute, who is still ravaged by the painful memories of his wife leaving him for his American friend; hell, he didn't even know he had a son! Nicky has hired a private detective to help him find his father and is surprised to know it's a woman! She's convinced she's real good at her job, he's not. Expectedly they start feeling attracted to each other; the fact that she'll soon be having an, "arranged engagement" to an NRI not withstanding. All these complications are tied together by the most unusual thing of all - a baby croc, that the playwright finds in the bathtub of his hotel! It's bizarre and quite funny, and the twisted way in which the "Croc block" resolves itself is well-plotted. The different conflicts in the book: the father's hatred for his betraying wife, the "American" playwright's disgust with corruption in India, not to mention pollution, the frustration of the female detective in a male-dominated profession - all these find a final resting place through the telling of the tale, as most of the prejudices that these people have start deteriorating. The characters rise above their weaknesses.
And yet, maybe this should have been a shorter book. Maybe Murari should have stuck to the model by Faulkner and not gone back and forth between the minds of the characters so often. This causes repetition of events, which only at times is interesting. It's important for the author know the limits of such a technique. Clichés have to be thrown out window and emotions must be deeply felt, otherwise the reader wonders: Why do I have to be inside four peoples' minds constantly even when it’s not riveting?
Faulkner had also used very different styles of "talking" for each character, which powerfully evoked distinct personalities, effectively conveying the individual maelstrom in each heart. Yes, Murari is a clever user of words, but in language each character only marginally differs from another, despite the fact they come from different continents, different generations. Painting each person in definite strokes right down to their lingo would have added lip-smacking salt to proceedings.
And it’s the salt that makes all the difference. A book like a film, I’m learning, should not just be one which the reader is made to ‘pass through’. The book has to call him. Arrangements of Love does that successfully.INDIAN EXPRESS.
THE HYBRID MIND.
Delving into the mind of an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) is at once insightful and amusing. The stereotype - the first generation of immigrants want to blend seamlessly into the new country. The second generation feels vaguely restless, cultural misfits and they return to the country of their origin in search of their roots. This is the central theme of all novels written by NRIs/expatriates and. this book by Timeri N Murari is no exception to the rule.
The theme is simple. Nicky /Nikhil comes to India armed with a stage adaptation of the novel to look for its author, who is also the father he has never known. The chapters move at a rapid pace with multiple first person shifts.
In India, Nicky is sucked into a whirlwind of events that leave him bewildered. His American sense of humour is misunderstood by the police and they think he is a terrorist because he casually remarks that there is a-bomb in his lost suitcase! His character comes across as wishy-washy and he is caught between the world he knows and the one he has just stepped into.
The characters in the novel are quirky and their lives seem so complicated. Susie/Sushima, Nicky's mother leaves India to marry an American. After that she breaks all her ties and when asked says "I'm from New York." She finds India a "deceitful place and most confusing too."
Susie tells her son that his father is dead. But while smoking a joint in the attic of his Westchester home, Nicky finds a tattered copy of a novel among the folds of a resplendent red silk sari. Contemporary events like the 9/11 bombings on the World Trade Centre are skilfully interwoven into the story. Susie dies in the attack and Nicky makes his pilgrimage to India.
The author has written novels, non-fiction as well as screenplays and stage scripts. His film The Square Circle made it to Time magazine’s top ten best films.
To the Indian sensibility certain episodes are quite bizarre. For instance finding a baby crocodile in the hotel's bathtub and the subsequent bureaucratic hassles is rather improbable; Apu the pretty detective playing striptease poker in front of lascivious men and yet going in for a tame arranged marriage is hard to digest!
A lot of American phrases are interspersed with Tamil words like "chinnaveedu." The language and word usage are so different to what one is accustomed to reading, that it adds a piquant flavour. Like the Indian sun "swaggering and arrogant, full of itself, hurling down its tremendous heat and light"
Perhaps nothing surprises the western mind more than how Indians docilely agree to arranged marriages. The spunky detective Apu tells Nicky that one hopes to fall in love with the person he/she marries. Although Nicky calls America a "schizophrenic" country he goes back. But the reader is left with the feeling that he will return to India and to Apu. DECCAN HERALD.
- What really keeps you going is a comedy of errors theme, a plot driven by interesting characters, all interconnected by the strange twist of destiny. A great read. FIRST CITY.