The Independent called Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s The Last Song of Dusk “an exuberant performance”. The Times of India called Shanghvi “India’s newest, youngest and possibly best-looking exported guru of sex and spirituality”, though the article went on to qualify the praise considerably. India Today burbled across three pages about 2004’s “hottest literary sensation”.

So the Babu opened the book and almost choked on the very first sentence: “On the day Anuradha Patwardhan was leaving Udaipur for Bombay to marry a man she had not even met in the twenty-one years of her existence, her mother clutched her lovely hand through the window of the black Victoria and whispered: ‘In this life, my darling, there is no mercy.'” Aside from the really important questions it raised (whose lovely hand? do we really need bathos in the opening para?) it made me wonder whether Shanghvi’s manuscript had ever been introduced to an editor.

Many pages later, I knew the answer. The writer who could produce a truly funny riff on India seeing the first mini-sari as “nothing short of cultural blasphemy”, with the Rakshash Junta Party (“an extremist right-wing group of thugs”) waving banners of protest saying (“The LAND that WORSHIPS the COWS Will NOT Have WOMEN Showing Their CALVES!”) could not possibly be responsible for sentences like this, from a passage where Dr Hariharan starts to beat his wife:

“This went on with merciless delight–thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash,

thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash,

thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash,

thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash, thrash,

thrash, thrash, thrash–until with a pregnant woman’s ferocious instinct for

survival, Mrs Hariharan fought back. Kicking, biting, clawing, kicking, biting,

clawing, kicking, biting, clawing, kicking, biting, clawing, kicking, biting, clawing,

kicking, biting, clawing, kicking, biting, clawing, kicking, biting, clawing, kicking,

biting, clawing: as much as a woman with an infant stored in her womb could.”

This kind of proves my thesis, which is that Shanghvi is an exuberant, energetic literary sensation who never had an editor do more than breathe on his manuscript for two seconds. Because any editor worth his or her salt would have:

“Begged him to delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete,

delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete,

delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete,

delete, delete, delete.”

Unless of course this was suggested and Shanghvi protected the imminent rape of his fine prose by kicking, biting, clawing for all he was worth.

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