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The Cosmopolitans Hardcover – 17 Aug 2015
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"An engaging, uplifting read... Intense and cerebral... There’s a lightness of touch, bordering on the zany. Pick up The Cosmopolitans to read an author at the peak of her powers, long may they last" - Mint
"Fiercely intelligent... The Cosmopolitans is a must-read" - Indian Express
"Chock-full of irony... A tantalizing novel about art and artists... A joy to read" -Open
"The remarkable thing about Hasan's novel is that it forces you to have a conversation with yourself: and it has been quite some time since a novel has been so intellectually provocative" - India Today
About the Author
Anjum Hasan is the author of two novels, Lunatic in my Head (shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award) and Neti, Neti (longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, andshortlisted for The Hindu Literary Prize), a book of poetry called Street on the Hill and, most recently, a collection of short stories, Difficult Pleasures (shortlisted for The Hindu Literary Prize and the Crossword Book Award). She lives in Bangalore.
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Anjum Hasan has divided the story into two parts. The first part takes place in a usual habitat of the Cosmos, the Elite Art Circle in the City, in this case Bangalore. Qayeenat, an art organizer, arranges an exhibition of the hottest artist of the hour Baban Reddy’s work ‘Nostalgia’. Although, she is in this inner circle of the Art World, she is now in her fifties and without employment or enough money. She is also lonely, even with Sathi a photographer and her ex-boyfriend squatting in her home, for the time being. She plans to tackle both the problems in her life. The money through a devious plan for an insurance fraud devised by Sathi and his new gangster friend Shahrukh-Bhai. The relationship, with rekindling an old flame which she believed to have existed with Baban, before he became famous. Baban, however feels he was always open for the relationship then and it was her that wasn’t. This upsets Qayeenat. To add to it, she accidentally overhears Baban and her closest friend talking about her. In an impulse she destroys 'Nostalgia’ by setting it on fire. Unfortunately, its not just the art that gets destroyed. This deflates Qayeenat completely. Stalling all the criminal plans, she leaves Bangalore for a remote village called Simhal.
The Second part of the book is set in Simhal, a village that’s cut off from modern civilization. People there believe in their King, rather than the Indian Government which is trying hard to modernize these people. The people retaliate with guerrilla forces which fight the Indian police and army. Qayeenat’s interest is in a particular dance form, which Simhal is famous for. Here she meets the Dancers, teachers, the people and the King. She slowly realizes that its the Government that’s trying hard to get hold of the Mines and Forests which are currently occupied by the people of Simhal. She’s mesmerized by the King’s Manner and slowly a relationship develops between the two. She confesses to be in love with him. One fine festive day, the reality strikes hard. Qayeenat is invited by the King to a secret annual ritual. The visions that she sees are horrific and beyond her comprehension. She seeks the help of the very Government official she’d earlier scorned for trying to prevent her from falling for the King, to take her back to her home in Bangalore.
The book deals with a lot of serious themes. There is the rush of Indian Modern art to make an impression in the big art destinations like New York and Paris. However, the Modern Indian Artist is in the danger of creating with an template to succeed in such place while ignoring the needs of the local Indian Art-Consumers. A Polar opposite to that is the Government funded initiatives to keep the art and tradition alive in the villages, which lack any motivation expect that of living on the government stipend. There are other themes about the role of Religious extremism in Controlling both the urban and rural societies. The Kings Sacrificial rituals which completely binds the villagers to his will or the butchering of a Muslim woman artist for drawing nudes are fictional but these problems do exist in our societies. Anjum Hasan has done an incredible job in balancing a powerful message and the beautiful story which delivers it.