|The arrangements of
The Reading at the British Council, October 29, 2004.
Modi playing Sushima
Cast: Yog Japee (also director), Anshuman Rudra, Karthik
Narayan, Shalini Modi, Rashmi Devadasan, Amrita Shetty,
Sruti. Lights: Vani.
N. Murari’s new book, ‘THE ARRANGEMENTS OF
LOVE’, is all about India, complete with its idiosyncrasies
and everyday surprises.
To TELL you the truth, the crocodile was rather bizarre.
A hulking cardboard croc answering to the name Renee,
she lounged in an imaginary bathtub all through the play,
only popping out at intervals to flash a toothy grin
at the audience, and wryly comment on the action.
But, eventually, she too -blended in.
After all, Timeri Murari's “Arrangements of Love,"
released recently at the British Council Library
with a dramatised reading by Theatre Y, is about
India, complete with its idiosyncrasies and every day
surprises. Including errant Crocodiles in hotel bathtubs.
"Most people ask me why I’ve a crocodile,"
said Murari, after the reading. "Even my editor asked
me to remove it." However, he kept her in because,
"In India, you must expect the unexpected. I wanted
Nikhil (the story's protagonist) to meet the unexpected,
not just a snake in the bathtub, or an elephant on the
road. Eventually the crocodile became a central, symbolic
part of what I was trying to tell people, about my own
discovery of India."
The story weaves through lives of four characters, using
Nikhil Figgis, a young writer-playwright from
New York travels to Chennai in search of his father, as
the central character. Nikhil, bewildered by India
in a typically 'firang' way, was the main thread in Theatre
Y's performance in which a variety of Murari's
characters came alive from Nikhil's crusty, anti-social
father, barricaded away from the rest of the world after
his arranged marriage went sour, "When you fall in
love, you pray that the other person will love you with
the same ferocity. She never did”, to a PCO
operator and his brother who memorise the entire telephone
directory to prove their genius.
the characters purely fictional, or are they snippets
of people we know?" asked a member of the audience,
amid a spate of giggles. (Prominent Chennai personalities
featured over the course of the reading, proving that
part of the story, at least, was rooted in real, contemporary
"Well, Graham Greene says that
everyone he knows enters his novels. I suppose there are
bits and pieces of people I know in the novel," said
The situations aren't completely fictional either.
In the reading, an exhausted Nikhil walks into his hotel
bathroom to find Renee lolling in his tub. His hotel firmly
tells him he can't keep pets, so he carts her to the Crocodile
Bank only to be told that he needs a permit to return
her, because she's Indian. (Apparently, you can do anything
you like with an American crocodile here. Even make a
handbag.) He then finds that the permit takes four months,
leaving him with a crocodile date for dinner, for the
next four months, at least.
The real life parallel? “There's a building site
next to my house, and one day, I saw a Black Buck tied
there," said Murari. "So, I rang up the conservator
of forests and soon, five jeeps showed up, followed by
three more." Then, apparently, a mob of excited
policemen jumped out, got into a row with the owner
of the Black Buck and dragged him away.
When Murari went to find out why they arrested the owner,
he was told a government permit was required to own
a Black Buck. "When I asked him how to get it, he
said 'Ah, you need to go to Delhi for that.' Then I said,
'So, you can get a permit?' and he said, 'Oh no sir, we
never give permits!' So, it's an essentially Indian
story. And it's set in Madras because this is my hometown.
No one writes on Madras! Why are all the well-known Indian
authors North Indians?"
Though Murari has written more than a dozen books in fiction
and non-fiction, "Arrangements of Love"
is his first novel to be published in India. Is it aimed
at the Indian-English audience this time? "I
write in English because it is the only language I know
how to write in," said Murari, adding that it
is targeted at "anyone who can read English.
Anyone who can enjoy a good story." THE HINDU.
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