Chennai: When is cynicism on the wane and life worth living for all its sufferings and slander? Not if one is to be bowled over by pathos one after another. It happens when love is the ethos of all human forms of living.
‘Love’ in that foundational sense is a process of discovery, deep and arduous to the searching soul, in wading through the good and evil of life with a sense of equanimity. It is this simple yet profound message that comes through in G.V. Subba Rao’s second novel, ‘The Missed Beat’. How many ‘beats’ would you ‘miss’? Well, that depends on how many people you ‘love’. A Sufi saint or a Zen master couldn’t agree better.
‘Fiction’ borrows liberally, even if at times selectively, from real-life events, if the quest for truth is its ideating logos, as much as the canvas of life is dotted with the fictional and the ideal in trying to make them ‘real’. The writing craft of Subba Rao, whose father Gollapudi Maruthi Rao, a well known Telugu author and playwright, in this racy narrative, lives up to this template of storytelling in a rat race post-colonial society, set around urban engines of growth from a small town Shimoga - now Sanskritised as Shivamogga-, Bangalore, to Dubai to Cambridge.
It begins with the dramatic kidnap of the doctor-daughter of an eminent cardiologist who has built one of India’s finest super-specialty hospitals in Bangalore, Dr Raj Kumar, the protagonist of the novel, for ransom. It ironically hits the first speed-breaker on Bangalore-Mysore road with the abductor suddenly suffering a cardiac arrest at the wheel of the car he was carrying out his maiden, immature attempt. As she wakes up from her dozed state, the girl is providentially free as her kidnapper is dead! It is from that point the unbundling of the story and its characters begin.
Both gregarious and extremely helpful to any suffering patient as a professional doctor, Dr Raj Kumar is equally family-centric, deeply loves his wife, Sandhya, and two daughters. But as he gets involved to try and understand what led to the kidnapping in the first place, both known and unknown aspects of his recent past begin to unfold on shifting sands, events climaxing in a complex web in Dubai.
Raj Kumar engages with one character after another, all roughly in a week or so, to eventually go in search of his son, born of a relationship with a compassionate Muslim friend Samira; and the boy, Salman, he has never seen until a larger design willed it through this kidnapping by none other than the boy’s foster-parent, Basheer, a devout but somewhat quixotic Muslim driver who could not pay the fees for a famous cardiologist son’s admission to a medical university in the UAE! And there the brilliant doctor, flying from India to deliver Basheer’s body to where it belonged, finds himself, unwittingly playing a key role in neutralizing an underworld don, whose plan to do another 26/11 on India has just gone bust. Raj Kumar braves all the hardships just to see his son, an affirmation of a deep love lost.
For all the nail-biting elements of suspense, how little details tangle and untangle-not to forget the ‘royal’ role of an erstwhile noble Princesses’ horse which helped a first generation entrepreneur to make his first million at the Bangalore Derby, and how Dr Raj Kumar finally finds his finest hour in a deeper reconciliation of love, tolerance and care, one must read the novel. But Subba Rao’s feat in this compelling narrative, if one may say so, is to put all the elements of a complex modern society in the making within a larger perspective of love as soul-force.
The author shows this in a splendid, reflective passage: “Unconditional love, like baseless hope, perhaps makes life worth living as it doesn’t need a reason or object. Nature allows it to manifest everywhere. It knows no boundaries. It doesn’t have discriminatory tendencies either. There is no difference between the rich or the poor, the famous or the anonymous, Hindu or Muslim, the powerful or the pauper. It’s love that binds diverse human beings tied by an invisible, tenuous and yet the most potent force. It is the undeniable energy that unifies humans born at different places and times across cultures. The omnipotent, irrespective of it being believed or denied, has thrust this faceless, inscrutable power as the safety rail that prevents hordes of mortals from falling off and becoming animals.”
Significantly, though not explicitly stated by the author in the novel but well alluded to, is the fact that such a reflection is possible today precisely because of multi-cultural global society. The economics of culturally diverse cities are now intertwined as much as the fates of its movers and shakers. And Subba Rao’s key characters in the novel show us how important it is to “network” with like-minded people in pursuing visionary goals for the benefit of humanity at large.
Old categories of thought fall by the wayside without destroying the soil from where they took roots. ‘Love’ could come in any garb as life-giver and to recognise it at the right time and act upon it in good faith, is the key to human compassion and progress. There is both continuity and change, but it needs a new desideratum of larger human welfare, as the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ of the medical profession expects ‘healing Gods (doctors)’ to do.
In today’s anxiety-ridden world, ‘Religions’ are not so much practiced for their doctrines as for the social identity of its believers; but what the author seeks to beam through his protagonist is that devoid of human love, mere religious symbolisms could become fertile breeding grounds for fanaticism, intolerance and terrorism. This implicit warning, between the lines, from this narrative makes it a contemporary story. Needless to add its action-packed structure and snappy conversations makes it a tempting script for another Kamal Haasan starrer....