Book Name: By God: The Making of a Messiah
Author: Shashi Warrier
Book Blurb: Ghublistan. An island resplendent with the divine herb. A country rich in bat Guano. A society where people are content, happy to serve their Prophet. But the country is experiencing a surge in emigration, and the Prophet is getting restless. In an attempt to find out why, alkanza, the Prophet, commands the custodian of the divine gardens to temporarily leave this utopian society and get him some answers. Commanded by the ruler, his excellence tomikanza embarks upon on a riveting, perilous journey with his not-so-faithful barber, neepane, in an endeavour to understand this strange beast called democracy in, first, that is the world’s largest Republic, second, that is a unique mix of God’s rule and self-governance, and third, that is touted to be the modern world’s oldest democracy. Through the journey of two ghublistanis as they meet inept policemen, blundering spies, and sleazy politicians, by God, the making of a messiah gives a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the religion-political system, subtly but powerfully unmasking its inherent vices, shortcomings, duplicity, and hypocrisy.
Review: By God is an interesting take on the cult of self-styled Godmen who seem to be mushrooming not just in the subcontinent but all over the world. The satirical work pokes at conservative societies and political systems that are often being propped up with the clandestine support of liberal societies.
The book is about the travels of Tomikanza and his barber, Neepane who have been instructed to explore democracy in other nations by the High Prophet Alkanza (of a fictional island nation called Ghubla).
The travels are narrated by Tomikanza and the barber alternately. The barber’s layman perspective serves as a nice contrast to the seemingly high-handed account of the Custodian Tomikanza. They travel to Mumbai, Karachi and finally to Washington DC.
“I shall travel across Ghubla’s Ocean to discover the lure of this strange religion called Democracy, which I privately call Democrazy…”
Shashi writes really well, he has a keen eye for observation and his satirical timing never disappoints. The book setting is perfect, his writing never falters, is at par (sometimes even better) with some of the greatest contemporary writers, and as a reader (and reviewer), I am left wondering as to why I have not read more books by this author?
In fact, the book was lying on my bedside table for weeks and I couldn’t summon the courage to read and review it primarily because I had never heard of this author. Also, another fictional account mixing religion and politics did not appeal to me. The cover also does not inspire much. This is again a lesson for me to never judge a book by its cover (some people never learn). To be fair, the blurb is good and should inspire readers to pick up a copy.
This book is highly relevant and it is so reverent that it becomes irreverent. The author has a natural talent for sarcasm but it is all done in a very amicable manner, and there is nothing that seems out of place in this lovely book.
The barber’s account is hilarious and makes for an interesting read. The inherent traditional values ingrained in people right from birth are contrasted with more liberal societies. There is no anguish or attempt a judgment here and the reader is allowed to draw his own conclusions.
“On board the aircraft, HE insisted on being served by the sole steward on board- he found the immodesty of the stewardesses in their knee-length skirts unbearable…”
Nobody wants to admit it but most of the liberal societies of the world have no problem with conservative societies and their autocratic political systems as long as their economic interests continue to be served.
There is no beating about the bush in By God. Shashi Warrier’s writing is pacy and the action starts right from the first page.
They encounter police officers, government officials, get kidnapped and the duo’s journey is never without a dull moment. To soothe their nerves, they use the Divine Herb (a euphemism for marijuana).
The ending is also twisted but in sync with the contemporary political situation in many countries.