Monday, August 23, 2010

Delhi Calm By Vishwajyoti Ghosh: A Review

By John Cheeran
Delhi Calm is a graphic novel with a difference. It tackles contemporary Indian history about which our understanding, still, is nebulous. As a recent newspaper report suggests, 35 years later, no one in the Indian establishment knows where the documents that record the correspondence between then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and the government are.
Vishwajyoti Ghosh deserves praise for choosing the dark days of Emergency (1975 June 25-1977 January 18) for his debut graphic novel.
Ghosh, however, could not weave a gripping tale out of the exciting and exasperating times when there was change, and Total Revolution, as coined by that wooly idealist Jayaprakash Narayan, were in the air.
What instead Delhi Calm provides is political commentary in patches. It’s a long and laborious affair and at the end of it, the reader is not left with any single graphic image that captures the bathos of those extra-ordinary times.
It is important to recall in this context the cartoon by the late Abu Abraham which depicted President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed supine in his bathtub and signing yet another constitutional amendment as desired by prime minister Indira Gandhi and asking a flunkey if there are any more ordinances he has to sign. It calls for an astute understanding of the political theatre, and may be in good time Ghosh would grow to acquire it.
Having said that one must admit Ghosh has succeeded in conveying a fair share of the complexity that dogged JP’s call for Total Revolution.
Not only the Prophet even his movement was undergoing dialysis with a motley crew almost hijacking it. By slipping Jogi, the right winger, into Naya Savera Band constituted by Vibuti Prasad, Parvez Alam and Masterji in the name of ‘inclusion’, Ghosh shows how cracks began to develop in the identity of the righteous movement. Masks were worn by not just Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay but those who were ranged against them too.
Ghosh has gone on record that he did not intend Delhi Calm as a dummy’s guide to Emergency. That’s fine. One can look elsewhere for that. Delhi Calm’s fatal flaw lies in the fact that its author lacks a story, a bigger picture to share with readers. Even after all these years.

Title: Delhi Calm
Author: Vishwajyoti Ghosh
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 246
Price: Rs499

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