Haroun and the Sea of Stories

‘Iff’ the water genie is the one who fixes and disconnects the flow of magical story waters to story tellers. ‘Butt’ the Hoppoe, is a bird, which helps Haroun on his journey to the worlds of ‘Gup’ and ‘Chup’ on the moon ‘Kahani’. Princess Batcheat of the land of Gup has been kidnapped, and Prince Bolo wants to rescue her, from the evil ‘Khattam Shud’, ruler of the land of Chup. ‘Chatterbox’ and the ‘Pages’ help. Haroun bye the way comes from the ‘Sad city’, a city so sad, that it has forgotten its name!

Confused? Does it sound too nonsensical? Taken from the world of Fantasy?

Well, that’s precisely what it is!

Salman Rushdie may be one of the most critically accliamed authors today, but he is also one of the best known authors of Indian origin whose variety of work has been an immense contribution to the world literature. ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ is a novel written by him during his exile period after being banished by the ‘fatwa’, post the publishing of the controversial novel ‘Satanic Verses’.

The protagonist is a little boy, Haroun Khalifa. His father is a noted story teller, the Shah of Blah, and the Ocean of Notions, Rashid Khalifa. They live with Soraya, Haroun’s mother, in the ‘Sad city’, in the country of Alifbay. This is miserable city where, sadness is actually manufactured in factories, and sent up as smoke through chimneys, making the people in the city full of despair. But Rashid Khalifa is not sad. The sadness had not seeped in through his windows yet.

Rashid Khalifa has the Gift of Gab. The talent of being able to spin stories, as if it were yarn on a spinning wheel! The political parties of the country actually use him in their rallies to win elections. But one day, Soraya leaves with Mr.Senguptha, her neighbour, and his world crumbles down.

One day Rashid, the Shah of Blah, loses his gift of gab. He goes upon a stage in a political rally to tell a story, and all he says is ‘ark’, as if he were a stupid cow. Haroun then embarks on a magical journey to the land of Gup and Chup on the moon Kahani, to solve his problems, and restore Rashid’s Gift of Gab. The lands of Gup and Chup are separated by an invisible wall and they’re arch rivals.

Will the son restore his father’s lost gift? To know, we must embark on the journey with Haroun, to the land of Gup and Chup, on Kahani.

This comes under the category of a Picaresque novel, wherein a hero goes to a magical land on an adventure. This is an allegorical novel. It serves as a fantasy novel for children, but holds a very deep message for the adults who care to read between the lines.

Rushdie says that ‘Fiction is lies through which the truth can be told’. The question, which Rushdie had been asked by his critics all over the world about his fiction, is highlighted in the beginning of this novel ‘What is the use of stories which aren’t even true?’ Rushdie answers this by saying that fiction or stories are simply to have fun, and express one’s point of view. There is no other motive behind them.

This is truly a marvellous novel, and delivers the powerful message that everybody, specially an artist has the freedom of speech, and has every right to express his point of view. The book mirrors the problems of the real world in many ways. It says that people unnecessarily build walls between them, and hence failing to see how similar we all are as human beings who inhabit the same world.

Using bricks, both walls and bridges can be built; it is our choice which one we choose to build.

N Trikala Satya