Book Reviews

Book review: The Country is Going to the Dogs

Book title: The Country is Going to the Dogs
Author: Anurag Mathur
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Pages: 168

Society’s constricted notion about women and sexuality is portrayed through the story of a seventy-four year old man who turns sleuth when the sex siren of sin city, Miss Fifoo goes missing, in Anurag Mathur’s latest ‘The Country is Going to the Dogs’.

The author of ‘The Inscrutable Americans’ who has spent three years in the United States yet again comes up with a theme which grazes the cultural conflict between the two societies, which according to him is the “clash between our conservative, traditional upbringing and the new India.” Currently working on a book about the dilemma of today’s young couples, Mathur has been most inspired by P.G.Wodehouse and the works of Joseph Heller.

Mathur’s novelties are pun intended and the humour is subtly incorporated though it tends to stretch a bit at the end where you no more care about Miss Fifoo going missing and just want to confront the protagonist, Radhey with his double-standard thinking and his incessant moral policing. Radhey feels disgusted with women wearing tight clothes but is a promiscuous man himself reflecting the widespread mentality of Indian men at some level. The author avers, “We tend to look at women as either sisters or Sita. For any woman outside that, there is a predatory kind of barely disguised passion.”

On being asked if he thinks the Indian society can ever progress towards liberalism as subtly hinted in his novel, he says, “We’re being dragged into liberalism by the forces of modernity. Films, television, the Internet, the media in general, travel, industrialization, increasing affluence and the spread of education, are changing us in ways we can barely comprehend, much less control. There are repeated violent backlashes, but the changes are irresistible and irreversible. There are too many modern people today. India will cope.”

He draws inspiration for characters “partly from reality and mostly from imagination. When I meet people, I often ask the question, ‘How would this person behave in a different situation’. It’s not unique to me; it’s a writer’s disease.” Consequently, the novel manages to highlight interesting characters from the poetic pimp who’s an English honours graduate to the resourceful journalist Anwar who gets things done swiftly. However, Radhey Radhey’s character could have been brought out better by illustrating his transformation rather than his prejudiced thinking solely. He doesn’t seem to be benefitted by the experience he undergoes whilst stepping out of his comfort zone and interacting with a different strata of the society.

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