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Shalimar the clown: A life and world of virtuousness

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Abhibunnisha Begum

The ninth novel of Salman Rushdie Shalimar the Clown was published on September 6, 2005 by Jonathan Cape and it is an extensive study of Kashmir. Shalimar the Clown is an allegory about how Kashmir has become corrupt through American neocolonialism. Rushdie uses allegory to establish Kashmir as a lost Eden. It is so because Kashmir has lost its glory because of the external influences. Boonyi and Shalimar‘s marriage represents what Rushdie through Pyarelal sees as the finest quality of Kashmir—it is a region whose people embrace assortment. In this novel the tragic history of Kashmir under domineering Indian rule and fundamentalist lethargy has been explored. Rushdie looks at the dissimilar factors that have increasingly over the period of time wrinkled the much esteemed ideal of Kashmiriyat and brought Kashmir to the threshold of demolition. He does so in an allegorical fashion through the lives of the main characters of this novel Boonyi Kaul and Shalimar, whose lives fall apart with the influx of an American ambassador to India by the name of Max Ophulus. Ridiculing high/official history, claiming Kashmir a part of India, Rushdie subverts it and gives his description of Kashmir history as “Kashmir for kashmiris,” at the same time he blasts the coercion and exploitation that Islamic fundamentalists do in the name of Islam. The use of magic realism in this novel blurs the difference between reality and fantasy leaving the readers tracing for the boundary between the two. An endeavor has also been made to see and evaluate the use of magic realism and other fictitious devices employed in the writing of this novel. Truly a trilogy of virtue, infidelity and new beginning, Shalimar the Clown is a story portraying the life cycle of death in life and life in death, an undying cycle of birth, devastation and renaissance. It represents a new life, a new beginning with the termination of all divisions and segments.  It is a life and world of virtuousness that is betrayed by its own people, and slowly walks down the path to obliteration as personified in the life of Shalimar, the protagonist and his village, Pachigam. The multicultural, fusion world is welcomed on the perspective, which has no place for any kind of divisions or borders. All divisions suspend and crumble paving the way for the sway of Humanism, for the victory of the vital Life Force present in all of us.

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