The Temple-Goers by Aatish Taseer

Following are some notes masquerading as a book review.

  • Like The White Tiger, The Temple-Goers is a tale set in Greater Delhi. Not only do they share geography but also the divisions in caste, race, wealth and the discrimination that feeds them.
  • The seemingly glib title of this novel bespeaks an offhand attitude taken by the cosmopolitan elite of present day Delhi. Temple-Goers are the traditional poor that cram the satellite areas of Delhi, who despite the modern trappings of consumer culture, still go to temples, honour ancestors and revisit Hindi legends. The narrator who has spent years abroad has returned to Delhi and finds himself yearning for this ‘authenticity’.
  • Aatish Taseer has a penchant for strong and seductive descriptions and with them paints a portrait of Delhi which is intoxicating and seemingly familiar.
  • Despite being in the first person, the narrator is like an accidental passenger to a tale centred around the brash and brazen Aakash, a personal trainer who embodies not only the vulgar trappings of globalised zero culture but also the traditional values of fidelity to ancestors and communal kinship arranged by caste. Aakash, like Balram in The White Tiger, is perverse in his motivation to become part of the elite and in this way depicts a city in turmoil, caught between the regeneration of traditional values and the decay of morality.
  • This is a writer’s novel, its raison d’etre laid bare at the margins.

review by Myoung

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