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Science fiction all too preoccupied with political griefs

THE ASIAN AGE. | KULBIR KAUR
Published : May 12, 2019, 12:11 am IST
Updated : May 12, 2019, 12:11 am IST

In the modern world driven by technology, self-interest and consumerism, even the sea can vanish overnight (Stealing the Sea by Asif Aslam Farrukhi).

The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction Edited by Tarun K. Saintl Hachette, Rs 399
 The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction Edited by Tarun K. Saintl Hachette, Rs 399

Is it a dream? Futuristic imagination! Or have I already lived this reality! This fuzziness, intermingling between past and present, myth and reality, science and fiction is deliberate and, in fact, the hallmark of this book. Veritably, the 28 short and long fictions and poems serve as a lens to view and analyse the spectacle unleashed by religious propaganda, political ideologies and, above all, technology. A comprehensive introduction on the history and meaning of science fiction by Tarun K. Saint and an engaging foreword written by Manjula Padmanabhan sets the mood to engage in this collage of “ideas and ideals” with wonder.

Can there be a place where there is no violence, no envy or hatred, where you can live in peace and joy? Men are not searching for a new planet but such a need exists (Planet of Terror).

But we, human beings, can spread our virus on the Moon, too. The story, Inspector Matadeen on the Moon by Harishankar Parsai, leaves you in splits. The black humour is a green chilli dipped in honey. Inspector Matadeen, under the cultural exchange scheme, went to the moon to train and “reform” their police force. His first initiative is to build Hanuman temples in all police lines. Our Matadeen is so adept in proving innocent guilty that the terrified moon ministry requests him to “go back to his own ramrajya”.

In the modern world driven by technology, self-interest and consumerism, even the sea can vanish overnight (Stealing the Sea by Asif Aslam Farrukhi). Who knows, “on a similar dusty morning, before the light, the people of the sea will see that the city has been stolen. Or worse, what if the city is drowned in shit?” (Shit Flower by Anil Menon).

Now what if you are planning to be Shashi Tharoor but turned into Gandhi instead, no less than on “Indypindy Day”? From the commercialisation of Brand Gandhi to the Akhlaq case, love jihad, sanghis, the mythological Eklavya, sperm banks, selfies and jagrans in front of a mosque, Shovan Chowdhury’s piece has it all. One moment it brings a smile to your face and the next it hits you hard with a naked truth. You love Chumki who elopes with the butcher’s son and declares, “My only religion is Virat Kohli”.

Religion (or political ambition) was the reason behind the Partition of the country, which in 2047 has become a theme park, allowing people to enter recreated memories of the historic event. A family chooses to visit the scenario “Rawalpindi in March 1947”, the venue of the first major outbreak of violence in Punjab. But is the past the present, as the protagonist is assailed by a sense of his own otherness and then the mob?

But “hell is other people!” “How dare it sneak into our territory?” Sami Ahmad Khan takes you to a live narak, where 15004 Chauri Chaura Express arrives with the most volatile, combustible and dangerous weapon known to man — man himself. People are killed aboard this train for being different- no diversity — religious, ethnic, sexual, linguistic, political —allowed.

Playing his role as conscience-keeper, the writer asks some vital questions related to environment and biodiversity in The Last Tiger. A metaphor, the tiger attacks the political system and its intentions towards the preservation of all species, including humanity. Full of wit and humour, this anthology of stories will stay with you for a long time.

Tags: science fiction, shashi tharoor