“The Man with Enormous Wings” looks like an easy read. It isn’t. I read it in one sitting and to a very large extent it disturbed me. Esther David’s new book revisits Gujarat violence, however in a new form. It speaks of the wounds inflicted, the ones that may have healed and the ones whose scars remain – as fresh and raw as ever. And amidst all this is the man with the enormous wings – overlooking, flying over his city, the one that he thought would be non-violent, from the state where he created Salt, and now salt is only there as a means of rubbing it on wounds.
Where does Violence stem from? No one can answer this one – from time immemorial violence has shaped the world – not for the better for sure. From World Wars to communal violence, shattering the peace of a neighborhood, things that were once intact are now broken, children grow up too quickly and the common man wonders about his fate and destiny. The only terms that then come to mind are those and one cannot do much but wonder.
This book does not preach – Esther just tries to put things in order for us to see. To see and may be realize what violence does to a part of the nation. I have often realized that when something in one part of the nation, the rest of the nation somehow doesn’t seem to care, as long as it doesn’t affect them directly. This kind of apathy needs to change.
Back to the book, Esther in the first part of the book takes us through a tour of the city – Ahemdabad that is – right from The Walking Dargah to the Shaking Minarets to the Divine Laughing Club (which existed centuries ago) and many more that make you want to visit the city, and at the end of every vignette there is a loneliness and void – the kind of emptiness that comes from losing something precious.
The second part of the book is vivid in its imagery – starting from and not mincing words about the Train that arrived and the storm it brought in its wake. The vignettes then are stark and disturbing with the Man with the Enormous Wings providing shelter in his wings to those who are lost and injured. He is the conscience of the city who no one wants to listen to. The voice that is buried with the rubble and torn down structures.
In summation, read the book for what it wants to communicate – for what Esther wants to. It will make you think and most of all may be make you want to add to changing things.
The Man with Enormous Wings; David, Esther; Penguin India; Rs. 199