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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


By Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal has been hailed by a certain Julie Birchill as "The best debut I have ever read." Yes, I am doing the back of the book stuff, since just about everyone seems to be doing it these days. It only gets better if you turn to the front of the book "Sexy...shocking and touched with genius."

Ok, I'll agree with the sex part - doesn't the cover say it all anyways?

Shocking? If someone has already read it, please tell me which part(s).

And genius - 245 pages later I was none the wiser. Obviously Ms Birchill hasn't been reading enough debuts. Coz if she had she could have rattled off so many other memorable ones, including some of my favourites - Shantaram, Tokyo Cancelled or Q & A, the list is extensive and touches of genius sure are there.

Getting back to Tourism, I had given up on it 20 pages down the line. Over dinner, a pal told me beyond all that trash it does get better (Tarun I hope you are reading this!). So on my second try I persevered. But the story is hardly the gripping sorts.

There is the male lead, a certain 'Puppy' (we can't even get more original than that!), engaged to another Sophie, lusting after a certain Sarupa. Need I even wax eloquent about what happens next?

If you are still guessing.... together with the Two S's there is also a lot of sex, tons of dope, drink and drifting.

And somewhere along the line you are supposed to be feel the angst of a marginalised youth growing up on the mean streets of London.

I am so sorry Puppy, but I just can't feel your pain.

Since this about fiction, about letting imaginations sour, for a moment put the intoxicated prose aside and try transporting yourself onto the streets of Punjab in the time of Blue Star. See your Dad who has given his life and soul for the Army searched right from his I/D card to his boots to ensure he is not another terrorist on the run. Try seeing The Golden Temple reduced from its former glory by a group of ill-timed strategists hoping to get the militants out in the day.

Try, just for a moment for a moment, to see your own kind surrounded by a mob dying for a kill when you are on a harmless road trip from Dehra Dun to Chandigarh. Or go beyond all of that to see the pain of an entire generation of young girls wasted by the marauding mobs in the aftermath of a riot.

If you can see the blood, at some point you will feel the pain and then there might be some shred of genius - somewhere.

PS: In light of the feedback...
Yes, I agree that debuts don't quite deserve the harshest cuts. But as another writer whose work I greatly respect pointed out, "if something's being sold as 'the best thing since buttered paratha', then I think it has to stand up on that level and be counted and if it doesn't match up, then I think it should be said."
Well, I've said what I have to about this debut, you as always are free to disagree. Look forward to the volleys.