Savie Karnel’s debut book, The Nameless God, published by Red Panda is an endearing , reassuring book revolving around the friendship of two young boys , Bacchu and Noor, set during The Babri Masjid demolition.
Bacchu , ‘Amita bacchu’ is a dreamer. A creative ‘Imagine if ..‘type of boy who lives in a Hindu household with a religious grandmother , a more open minded mother and Dad who runs a pooja items shop opposite the local dargah. Noor is a ‘logical and tactical’ child who lives with his mother. His Dad works in the Indian army. The story begins innocently with Bachu praying to God to ‘kill off someone important’ so that they get a holiday from school. As their prayer doesn’t get answered immediately then they decide, it was important to have a God who would listen only to them , and wouldn’t be crowded with too many wishes to fulfil unlike the Ganeshji temple or the Fakir Baba who seemed to be inundated with prayers.
Thus they create a new God , set it up in a perfectly hidden part of a fort. Their wishes come true , as the Babri Masjid gets demolished and school is suspended for a while. Trouble starts brewing at both houses as cassettes play on VCP ,with Hindu and Muslim MLAs asking to ‘drive away the outsiders’ or ‘avenge the masjid’ but both kids remain unaffected. The next day , however, the two friends and the dog are dragged right in the middle of a riot when a local beggar is found dead and it transforms into communal riot. As the situation escalates, Bachu’s dad’s shop is on fire, and Noor is kidnapped and Bacchu is left scared and alone, they innocently continue their conversation with their nameless God, acknowledging that ‘He is new to this God business’ and gently inform Him of his duties. Seema , a local vegetable vendor’s know- it – all and practical daughter and their classmate from school joins the search with Bachhu. Then as they encounter burning neighbourhoods, and walk through deserted graveyards , meet some goons and worry about their missing parents, they continue to try to ‘pressurize’ their new God.
It seems like it would be a difficult and tense story, but the author Savie has expertly kept the story in the voice of the children. Several important issues crop up but are dealt with with the innocence of a child, with no preconceived bias or judgement.
…When Bacchu sees a bus burning , he wonders if the people would clap and enjoy it in glee like a Ravan Dahan. Then he has a realisation that Ravan too would have thought he was doing right to avenge his sister.
…As Sanju, the shop help escorts the kids through the cemetery, they ponder about Karma , God , religion as Seema worries about her mother being an atheist, and the consequences of their actions.
The other brilliant stroke through the book is the use of humour to defuse potentially stressful situations. Whether it was Noor’s passionate speech about his Dad in the army being reduced to a mumbled garbled nonsense through his gag or the kids worrying whether the Hanuman Chalisa would work on Christian ghosts, the story remains ligin difficult situations.
An enjoyable aspect for adults reading this book with their kids is the warm nostalgia – Ramayana playing on a singular colour TV in the neighborhood , Ek do teen playing somewhere, the VCP player on rent , Rangoli serial that used to play songs early on Sundays etc.
How does the story end? Are the parents okay? Do the two warring MLA’s get punished? What happens to their nameless Go? Read this new book to find out!
I think this is a vital piece of our History and we must be able to tell the tale without any of our own predilections . This books will allow that free, honest assessment of the situation and prompt questions on God , religion and Karma calculations for themselves
Grey matters Discussions
Hinduism is often mocked at for having 300,000 Gods. Why did the two kids want to create a God? Can you think about why these Gods may have been created?
#Calling out communal
I vividly recollect a scene in the movie ‘My name is khan’ when the young boy encounters religion and he asks his mother whether Hindus were wrong or Muslims, to which the mother replies simply that there are just two types – Good people who did good deeds and Bad people who did bad deeds , thats all. In the book, Every time the grandmother or the Chacha try to blame the other religions, the mothers jump in to make sure the child is not biased.
Do you think this is important ? Why?
#The Importance of the path
Sanju, the shop help is in favour of the temple being built but does not agree with the means. The Chacha who wanted to ‘avenge also changes his perspective.
…Think about goals and means to achieve the goals.
…Also consider the importance of not having to stick to your point if things seem to not make sense anymore.
#Purpose of God
…The children have a tense and scary night .What was the benefit of having faith and a God they talked through to in this difficult time?
youngadults #fiction #historicalfiction #religiom #hate #God #terrorism #communalviolence #babrimasjid #friendship #karma #belief #redpanda #westlandbooks