A Requiem for My Idol

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writings easily cut across geographical and cultural boundaries captivating readers across the world as he wove stories that were real yet seemed magical 

7/9/2014 11:29:02 AM
written By : Shobha Tsering Bhalla Print

The demise of people we have never met rarely reverberates much beyond their native shores unless they are larger-than-life political leaders, actors or absolutely abhorred dictators, the latter only because of the menacing gloom that dissipates with them. 

The great writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez who died, aged 87, late last month (April 17) was a towering exception. His death was mourned by people all over the world, from literary critics and “twitter”-ing teenagers to bankers, bored socialites and Facebook intellectuals. It was as if Mother Teresa or Princess Diana had died. Although more subdued and minus the intensity this time, it was almost the same overflowing of grief I encountered from people from all walks of life in 1997 as I wrote the Page One story for The Straits Times of Singapore on Mother Teresa’s death and funeral which coincided with Princess Diana’s.025The extraordinary worldwide attention paid to Garcia Marquez’s demise is only natural given how compellingly his books continue to speak to us long after he wrote them and far from the centre of the action in his little provincial towns of South America.

Take me for example – a bookworm who grew up in a convent in the mountains of Northeast India and had never experienced even a timorous kiss from a boy nor a  students’ revolt in my college, much less the tumultuous upheaval of a dictatorship where love, lust, hate, loyalty and deceit are incestuously intertwined like the serpents on Medusa’s head. Yet Garcia Marquez’s books have always spoken intimately to me ever since I discovered him as a 17-year old in an Alladin’s cave of a bookshop in Shillong. I furtively read my first book - One Hundred Years of Solitude - the jacket covered with brown paper because I wasn’t sure if the nuns of my Catholic under-graduate college would consider it kosher. 

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