Think Kashmir, and we think invincible beauty. Think marriage, and we think commitment for a lifetime. Think human connections, and we get restricted to a few blood relations. Think Kashmir, and we also think terrorism. Think Kashmir again, and we think India, or is it Pakistan? Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown cannot be described in a few words. There are characters, there are stories woven as finely as the Pashmina, and there are emotions which change the whole course of the events. Rushdie praises Kashmir’s beauty through the aura and effect of Boonyi Kaul. Subtly, he makes us notice that Boonyi’s glory is also symbolic of Kashmir at its best. As Boonyi grows, so does Kashmir. Boonyi dies in the quest for reuniting with her roots and her beloved Shalimar, abandoning the weight of her daughter, father of whom is the Ambassador, whose stories could spin another novel.
With Boonyi’s ‘resurrection’ is born the sullen silence pervading through the valley in the form of the advent of insurgencies, militancy, and terrorism in the beautiful valley of Kashmir, which in happier times crooned in the voice of Muskadoon. Rushdie’s protagonist, Shalimar the Clown juggles through life, rising up in the air at one point and down in the doldrums during the other. For him,airclimbing was a cakewalk that earned him the suffixed description: the Clown. India alias Kashmira is destiny’s child. Rushdie personifies the genesis and nemesis of Kashmir through her. Her name is symbolic and takes birth from the tumultous relationships stretched to breaking point. She is a cynic, who is scared of falling in love. But she believes in love, because she definitely believes in hatred. She carries within her the seed of vengeance for the man she abhors to the core. The man, who is known as Shalimar the Clown.
Rushdie’s characters are, in many ways, honest portrayals of human fallacies. In fact, their imperfections provide the readers with the key to understanding their profound natures. The story goes on in the real world, but the impact it has grips the reader because it unfolds the intertwined destinies of Boonyi, Shalimar, Max the Ambassador, and India a.k.a. Kashmira. It gives deep insight into the range of emotions that a human soul is capable of feeling. The otherworldliness of love, the crimes of passion, the clandestine transgressions, the placidity of death, the life devoid of any calmness, multifarious escape routes (both literal and figurative), and of course vendetta are all privy to the essence of the underlying theme. The book is meant for anyone who wants to swim in the undercurrents of a meandering story, calm at times, mostly stormy.