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The Mystic Masseur by Sir V S Naipaul | Book Review

This first work of fiction by V S Naipaul was published in 1957 wherein he introduced the readers to the world of Trinidad in West Indies featuring the character of a young man called Ganesh Ramsumair, who by combination of luck and some cunning achieved wealth, success and political power to become one of the most popular men in Trinidad.

Boook : The Mystic Masseur
Author : V S Naipaul
Publisher : knopf doubleday publishing group (01/2002) and Others
Further Info : Paperback edition is 8.06 x 5.12 x 0.52 inches in size and 177 grams in weight and contain total 224 pages.

The story is simple. Young Ganesh is one of the lucky boys whose fathers could afford college education for him. After finishing college, he takes up job as a teacher but is unhappy with it. He comes back to his hometown on death of his father and eventually gets married to Lila, daughter of a shopkeeper called Ramlogan.

He moves with Lila to a house that has come to his possession as part of dowry in small village of Fountain Grove. There he passes his days in idleness making plans of writing books and starts with reading a lot of books making notes. He takes up the profession of masseur (as his father was very good at massages, too) with limited success and publishes a book containing 101 questions and answers on Hinduism. Finally, her aunt suggests that he should become a pundit, and it is as a pundit that Ganesh finds his true calling.

He successfully liberates a boy from an evil shadow of his dead brother (hillarious event!!!) and is soon established as a powerful mystic. His fame rises and so does his fortune. Money comes to him through various ways including a restaurant and taxis for visitors. He builds a temple in the village, too. But with his success, other mystics turn into his enemies. The war of words take place through newspapers and finally ends with Ganesh becoming the president of the association representing Hindu community of Trinidad. Next step takes him to public elections and he wins. He learns tricks of the trade quickly and flourishes in his political career as well.

The storyline is simple but what makes it enjoyable is the author’s mastery in creating characters that come alive. Their dialect, their behavior in different situation, their mindset and way of thinking seems so familiar, especially to an Indian reader that though the backdrop is Trinidad, the characters do not appear to be aliens. The connection of these characters with India is only through tales of their ancestors who came to Trinidad before a few generations. However, the legacy does manifest itself quite strongly in peculiarities like repeating words to emphasize on the meaning, aversion to meat-eating, horror of sea-voyages, typical married couples, etc.

The book is a light, easy and entertaining read once you get used to the dialect. A nice and funny snapshot of Indian community in Trinidad in 1940s….Enjoy

Facts:
The novel was the first by Naipaul to be filmed. The 2001 film adaptation, The Mystic Masseur, is a Merchant Ivory production. It was produced and directed by Ismail Merchant. The movie star cast was including but not limited to veteran actors like: Om Puri, Aasif Mandvi, Ayesha Dharker, Jimi Mistry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Zohra Segal, Sakina Jaffrey and others. The music of the movie was given by Zakir Hussain and Richard Robbins.

Other books by Sir V S Naipaul

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