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Review: How a terrorist is born

News18

Updated: February 1, 2011, 5:02 PM IST
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Review: How a terrorist is born
A chilling tale that's both a story of the times and a unique tale. A chilling tale that's both a story of the times

How is a terrorist really born? It's easy to think of him - it's usually him - as a pawn in a larger game of violence being played by religious fanatics, brainwashed into submission by angry clerics hell-bent on destroying those whom they perceive as the enemy. While stereotypes don't lie entirely, there's always the individual's personal stream of circumstances and history that intersects with this larger force to forge a blacksmith of violence.

Political and social scientists care too much for the mould, usually allowing their theoretical and/or humanitarian orientation to interpret such events. Novelists often go to the other extreme, over-individualising and ignoring the social element, crossing the line of control of narration into maudlin, hand-wringing defence.

Fortunately, sometimes there comes a piece of fiction that doesn't teeter on either edge, the author having done his or her its due diligence in both the canvas-building and in the creation of unique characters. That's what makes Omair Ahmad's Jimmy The Terrorist stand out in a crowd of terror-fiction, most of which is opinion masquerading as make-belief. Besides the fact that it achieves the rare feat of being both taut and gentle in its prose, what Jimmy The Terrorist does is to effortlessly draw you into the vortex of everyday events that you know will culminate in violence, but which still comes as a surprise.

Along the way, there are the bylanes of Moazzamabad, where Rafiq Ansari battles the demons of a hierarchical society, entrenched personal values and an environment that turns increasingly hostile without his precisely knowing why. And there is his son Jamaal, a stranger in a stranger land, as schoolmates turn against him, his father becomes more and more remote, and a mosque is razed elsewhere in the state by a chanting mob.

Ahmad's success is that despite the predictable familiarity of the backdrop - you can't change history or reality, after all - the characters feel unique enough to not be cut-outs. Other individuals in the same circumstances would have behaved differently, he persuades us in this story supposedly told by a resident of the mythical town with an air of fatality. It doesn't matter whether Jamaal's metamorphosis into Jimmy the Terrorist is a representative tale or not. For it is, simply, a wonderful story.

the first and only pictures of the collision of the navy war ship with a cargo vessel off the Mumbai coast on Sunday.

Author: Omair Ahmad; Published by: Penguin Books India; Price :Rs 350

First Published: February 1, 2011, 5:02 PM IST
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