The Assassin's Song, By MG Vassanji

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The Independent Culture

When he is a little boy, all the protagonist wants to be is ordinary. But ordinariness is far from his reach, for he is heir to Pirbaag, the shrine of the Wanderer, a medieval sufi in his village of Haripir. Pirbaag is "calm and cold as infinity", home to the mausoleum of the sufi, who wandered into Gujarat centuries ago and became guide and guru. Now the shrine lies in ruins, a victim of the violence gripping the state. Our narrator assumes the role he once spurned to tell the shrine's story.

The Wanderer "showed us the path to liberation from the bonds of temporal existence", he writes. Yet, it is those bonds that are the most absorbing parts of this intricate tale, particularly the painful bond between father and son: "I wonder who my father was. And who was I, then? Was I different, deep inside me, from what I seemed to myself?" Such are the questions as he tries to connect his life in the village to the wider world. Song, he finds, is a powerful means of sharing stories, and this is a love letter to music, revealing how, in the words of Rilke, "Song is being".