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The Death Of VishnuThe Death Of Vishnu by Manil Suri
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The whole book revolves around the happenings in a building in South Bombay. The book describes the daily life of the various tenants (all of whom seem to be retired and content to stay at home) in this building. All this is weaved around the death of a person named Vishnu who has been sleeping in one of the landings in the three storey building.
As Vishnu lies dying the tenants of the different apartments are in their own world, the wives who have to share a kitchen bickering among themselves, the philosophy reading Muslim still trying to convince his wife to broaden her vision about religion and philosophy.
The third floor occupant lives in his own world after the death of his wife and hardly interacts with the others in the building.
The author has packed in the background stories of the Muslim family (Jalals) on the second floor and the loner (Mr. Taneja) in the third floor. To a little extent the life of Vishnu is also provided. There is romance between the daughter of the first floor Hindu family and the son of the Muslim family on the second floor.
A day before the death of Vishnu the girl has been taken to see a groom whom she is expected to marry on the grounds that he is an engineer and has found a job in a stable company. But the girl does not find that option as exciting as running off with the Muslim boy upstairs with whom she has been cuddling in secret with help from Vishnu.
On the day of the death the twosome decide to elope. But then reality strikes and the girl finds that travelling unreserved in the trains is not something she can endure for long. So she leaves the boy half way through their journey and comes back home.
In the meantime the father of the boy has been trying to achieve nirvana by putting himself through fasts, sleeping on hard ground after having failed to flail himself during the Muslim festival of Muharram as he realizes that he cannot endure the physical pain.
On the day of the death of Vishnu he feels she should be like Father Francis and Mother Therasa and should sleep with Vishnu. So he sneaks out of his house to sleep on the landing with Vishnu. In the meantime the the Hindu girl and his son have eloped and during that the Hindu girl as dropped her dupatta on Vishnu as a final gesture of his services towards her and her family. In the process of sleeping with Vishnu through the night Mr. Jalal gets entangled in the dupatta left by the Hindu girl. He dreams as if Vishnu is Lord Krishna and he gets the same vision as Arjuna gets in Bhagvat Geeta and feels that he has been chosen to spread the word of Vishnu to the world.
As he sleeps with this delusion, in the morning the lady who delivers the milk to the residents of the building finds two bodies instead just one of Vishnu she raises an alarm. One of the Hindu family comes down and helps Mr. Jalal back to his apartment.
The other Hindu family wakes up to find that their daughter is missing and the Mrs. Jalal finds that her son has left a note for her and has left.
Soon the news of all these incidents, spiced up along the way by the bearers, spreads to the other occupants of the building which include a cigarette seller and a betel leaf seller. It is finally concluded that the Jalal’s must be taught a lessor for letting their son abduct a Hindu girl and a whole gang comes up to Jalal’s residence. In the scuffle that follows Mrs. Jalal gets knocked on the head and Mr. Jalal falls down from his second storey balcony.
When the police come to enquire all the residents speak out against the Jalal’s bringing out the dissonance between the two communities that still continues to date. Vishnu is being picked up to be taken to the mortuary and Mr. Jalal is recovering in the hospital while the condition of Mrs. Jalal is uncertain.
With this the author brings the book to a close.
Although the book has excerpts of rave reviews from some of the leading papers one does not get a feeling of fulfillment after reading the book. Maybe it is not for the Indian audience, but for the Western audience who may find such stories a novelty.

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