In Times of Siege: A novel

In Times of Siege: A novel

by Githa Hariharan, Githa, Githa Hariharan

Shiv Murthy, a meek middle-aged professor of history in New Delhi, has become caretaker to a friend's passionate and outspoken daughter. Meena, recuperating from a broken leg, moves into Shiv's home, even though they barely know each other and even though his wife is away in the States. Over the next six weeks, the life to which Shiv has grown accustomed is thrown… See more details below


Shiv Murthy, a meek middle-aged professor of history in New Delhi, has become caretaker to a friend's passionate and outspoken daughter. Meena, recuperating from a broken leg, moves into Shiv's home, even though they barely know each other and even though his wife is away in the States. Over the next six weeks, the life to which Shiv has grown accustomed is thrown into perilous turmoil. As he struggles in his dealings with the intelligent, self-possessed, sexually aware young woman, a class Shiv teaches in his medieval Indian history course is challenged by a group of religious extremists. Unexpectedly caught up in the whirling of politics, Shiv, even more unexpectedly, now takes a stand.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
When a middle-aged history professor at a New Delhi university writes about Basava, a medieval poet, administrator, and reformer who opposed the caste system, he unwittingly provokes protests from Hindu fundamentalists that threaten his career. If this premise seems to be drawn from the headlines of modern, B.J.P.-dominated India, Hariharan amplifies the themes of courage, dissent, and responsibility in her protagonist's private life. He becomes attracted to a student activist while his wife is overseas, and he confronts the memory of his father, a freedom fighter who disappeared when his son was fifteen. The result is an engaging portrait of the mild-mannered professor, who, even as the crisis engulfs him, marvels that his scholarly discipline "has become a live, fiery thing."
The Washington Post
Offering up fascinating details about Indian history, In Times of Siege is heartbreakingly funny, moving and as relevant as today's headlines. — Caroline Leavitt
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Thoughtful and perceptive, this novel by a young Indian writer-her first to be published here (her debut novel, The Thousand Faces of Night, won the Commonwealth Prize for first fiction)-suggests provocative parallels between life in contemporary New Delhi and the U.S. Its main issue is the militant attempt by religious fundamentalists to revise a historical event. The man who unwittingly sets this uproar in motion is diffident and naive Shiv Murthy, a 53-year-old history professor at a correspondence college. An extremist group accuses Shiv of anti-Hindu bias because of his lesson about the 12th-century poet and social reformer Basavanna, who campaigned for citizen equality and called for the end of the caste system. The media sensationalize the dispute, hate mail pours in and violent protests occur on both sides. These unsettling events come at a time when Shiv's personal life has acquired a new dimension. His 24-year-old ward, Meena, who has broken her leg, is recuperating in Shiv's home, and Shiv's wife is away. In addition to the sexual feelings she arouses in Shiv, Meena introduces him to young political activists who take up his cause. The university, meanwhile, withdraws his syllabus and pressures him to issue a public apology. Shiv's moral crisis brings back memories of his father, a social reformer who disappeared when Shiv was a boy, but whose lessons about personal courage still resonate. While the narrative poses important questions, it lacks dramatic tension. Meena's presence in Shiv's home feels too convenient, while Shiv's largely reactive personality is colorless, even when he does make a decision to attempt "a raggedy bit of heroism." Still, Hariharan succeeds in illuminating the siege-like mentality that exists when extremists set the agenda for intellectual culture. (Aug. 10) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Shiv Murthy is a middle-aged professor in New Delhi. While his wife is away, 24-year-old Meena, who is under their guardianship, calls him for help after she breaks her leg. When Shiv reluctantly brings her to stay with him as she recuperates, she begins to arouse feelings (both sexual and political) he was not expecting. Shiv's turmoil is furthered when local Hindu fanatics object to his lesson on medieval Indian history because of its "ambiguity." The university wants him to apologize and allow the whole mess to blow over, but Shiv is inspired by the politically charged Meena to take action and defend his lesson. Though his motivations seem to stem from a combination of Meena's encouragement and devotion to his father, ultimately they are unclear and without much passion. Shiv's world is turned upside down, and he and Meena acquire an unspoken closeness, but the result is still a slow read. Recommended only for libraries that already have an extensive South Asian fiction collection. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/03; this is the first U.S. publication of the novelist whose The Thousand Faces of Night won the Commonwealth Prize.-Ed.]-Jeanine K. Raghunathan, Loudoun Cty. P.L., Leesburg, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The life of a middle-aged professor's life begins to lurch off the road when a young student comes to live with him, in a tale told with wit and grace by Indian author Hariharan. Shiv Murthy, like most academics, has to deal with campus politics every day, but usually it's a question of getting the administration to approve the departmental budget or repair the photocopier. A historian specializing in medieval India, Shiv leads a quiet life in New Delhi, teaching courses at the university, attending department meetings, and writing articles and class outlines. His dealings with students tend to be formal and somewhat distant, so he was somewhat at a loss when asked if he would look after Meena, the daughter of a family friend, who had broken her leg and needed more help than her university roommates could provide. He agreed to take Meena into his home for a few weeks, despite the fact that his wife was away visiting their daughter in Seattle and he had his hands full at the university just then. Hindu fundamentalists had taken exception to an article Shiv wrote about Basavanna, a 12th-century poet and reformer (Shiv had questioned the veracity of some of the legends surrounding Basavanna, and he had dwelt too much on his objections to the caste system), and their protests had been taken up by the press. The university, fearful of the bad publicity, asked Shiv to issue a public apology. Never one to look for a fight, Shiv might well have complied-had Meena not been at hand. A feminist and radical, Meena encourages Shiv to stand his ground against the "reactionaries." He does, surprising himself at the newfound intensity of his feelings on the subject-and for Meena. Can Shiv save hiscareer? Can he save his marriage? Does he even want to? When the midlife crisis hits, all bets are off. A simple story enriched by elegant narration and a light touch: Hariharan is a welcome newcomer to these shores.

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Product Details

Knopf Publishing Group
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5.58(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.92(d)

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