“Run and Hide” a New Indian Creed by Pankaj Mishra

Since his first novel, The Romantics, won a Times Prize in 2000 and was translated into eleven languages, Indian author Pankaj Mishra has not published a work of fiction. And here he returns two decades later, observing India’s rapid and astonishing development in his second novel, Run and Hide, published by Hutchinson Heinemann Publishing.

Mishra is a renowned essayist and novelist who gained worldwide fame after receiving the $150,000 Wyndham Campbell Prize for Non-Fiction, the highest value among the awards. In the “Romantics” he presented, with tantalizing irony, a story about a group of people who yearn to integrate into cultures other than their own, so that the question of integration became his permanent problem in all his works; Fiction and non-fiction, and the focus of his new novel. This novel is about three friends who, in an era of turmoil and collapse, break away from their humble origins and fly into the Great Gatsby’s delusions of wealth and power. But the cost paid by the latter, it will be obligatory for everyone who follows his example to pay it in kind.

Through the fates of the three graduates of the Institute of Information Technology, Mishra examines the psychology of the economically rising nations of the developing world after their repercussions in Asia have long occupied him, and here he reached the height of his preoccupation.

“It has become impossible for learned men like us to rest in their unchanging view of the world from generation to generation. That eternal life of humility and prayer, in which we felt no fear or intimidation, because it was by divine will, disappeared with the generation of our fathers. But, Who would despise us? We grew up in a very narrow life, convinced ourselves that there were more open paths to existence, and that we would surely find them. Indeed, it was like running this road and that, with no certainty of our destination, we kept looking back for clarification.”.

Under the flying debris

Mishra was born in 1969 in the city of Jhansi in India, his father is a railway worker just like the hero of his novel “Arun” who grew up in a humble village, and has long dreamed of escaping, so his admission to the prestigious institute, with many sacrifices from his poor parents, a lifeline from his shattered roots With cruelty and hardship. But the salvation sought was very elusive indeed!

On a male-dominated, bullied campus, Aaron meets two students from similar backgrounds, one named Asim (who becomes a social climber) and Virendra (later a billionaire). However, similar backgrounds never guaranteed a similarity in destinies, especially with the uniqueness of human nature, which here reaches the point of contradiction. Asim and Virendra have the will and absolute confidence to break through unforgiving social barriers. Tech’s graduates end up becoming their generation’s success stories, living as they please, working hard and playing hard from East Hampton to Tuscany, making the most of unprecedented material and sexual freedom. While his two friends go through it, Aaron fails to take advantage of an elite education and decides to pursue his literary career and retire to a small Himalayan village with his elderly mother.

The intersecting professional and personal lives of the three men also include a wife, Alia, scion of a wealthy old Muslim family educated at the Ivy League. Aaron gets to know her through her neighbor Asim, and their relationship solidifies, causing Asim to question all of his values. Mishra is concerned with the transformations that take place on people as they attempt to navigate a world rife with issues of race, gender and class, torn between modernity and tradition, the West and India, religion and secularism, indifference, society, family and career, as well as a world that, while promising them globalized liberal prosperity, seems to be bouncing back to populism and nationalism.

“The terrible thing about those who trample on darkness like Virendra is that their claim on the world’s wealth came too late, before we entered the endgame of modernity around the world. Every great edifice of modernity – developing economies, political institutions, information ecosystems, trust Among citizens – these are collapsing today, and we are all at risk of being buried alive under the flying debris.”

Between biography, philosophy and history

Aaron’s down-to-earth personality is affected by the arrival of the beautiful and ambitious activist Alia, who focuses on her book about the new global power brokers in Enya, including Aaron’s classmates. Alia tries to help him integrate into the developing world by being someone else. Throughout the novel, Mishra offers many philosophical opinions about where India is headed, leading us away from the characters to a more comprehensive view. But an intimate undercurrent that surfaces now and then, especially as he writes so passionately, of Aaron’s childhood, “Many moments away from the din of time to whisper of magical irreparable things: like the rocket we buy that through life glows with a soothing hiss and then soars.” And then, when green and red sparks fall, Our lofty faces glow briefly with a smile.”

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In his writings, Mishra is accustomed to integrating autobiography, history and philosophy, as he did in The End of Suffering: Buddha in the World, which examines Buddha’s relationship to contemporary times. In “The Temptations of the West: How to be Contemporary in India, Pakistan and Beyond,” he describes his travels through Kashmir, Bollywood, Afghanistan, Tibet, Nepal and other parts of South and Central Asia. While in his book, From the Ruins of Empire, he was searching for a way to be self-respecting in this world created by the West, where the West and its allies kept the best positions for themselves. Similarly, in his increasingly important book The Age of Anger, Mishra explains the politics of anger in the context of 200 years of capitalism’s big lie.

Two books in one message

Aaron and his friends are just examples of social mobility in a country like India, which has evolved from a closed society bound by complex norms to a neoliberal global player in the blink of an eye. But the problem is that this “mobility” presents itself, from the beginning, as a kind of existential terrorism. As they are welcomed into a new society by the upper classes and forced into horrific sexual excesses, male humiliation will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The novel is almost without plot, despite the complex method used in its construction. It takes Aaron’s letter from the Himalayas to Alia in London as a template for an intimate story and a grand escape from the negatives of the modern capital. Within this epistolary form, spaces are singled out for Alia’s book on brokers, and the same for Asim’s novel. Such a method would have contributed to much confusion, were it not for the alternation of narration between the three pronouns.

The novel also has satirical extracts from post-Brexit evenings, or activists’ Instagram accounts, and quotes from the work of the British novelist F. s. Naipaul, the Nobel laureate, who allowed himself to travel to London, from a tropical island, understood the desire for postcolonial modernity. In his novel A Bend in the River, Naipaul predicted what is going on in India now: “The world is as it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” With this phrase, Mishra begins his novel as the New India Doctrine.

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