The book has surges, urges, and purges splurging through the pages… and if you just sauté these elements with a pinch of the political history of India, a few drops of fantasy, and a liberal garnish of radical thoughts, you’ve actually almost written the recipe of the book. This book by Tabrik C can be pronounced as a political thriller, a futuristic inquest, a compendium of villainy, or just another piece of fiction that started well but committed hara-kiri for no apparent reason… all depending on the sort of mood you’re in while reading it. And in a single night I did experience all these moods as I read on and on and on…
Yes, you can denounce it if you wish to but you’ll still read on. You can be foxed by the suddenness of developments or the appearance of unexpected happenings, but you’d still want to turn the page and go on. You can detest a few of the characters in the book and yet murmur, ‘They exist and so they must be real.’ The book that fantasises on the political future of India is itself seemingly caught in opaque whirlpools of political thoughts that splash around only in the minds of students in elite colleges and universities… almost like what happens in the mind of Siddhartha Tagore, the main protagonist in the novel. No wonder then that when the reader peeps into his mind, he reads: ‘I’ve arrived at a disturbing moment in time. We have lived with galloping inflation, the falling rupee and at the edge of communal anarchy with the rise of the extreme right and ‘cultural organisations’ that ban women from their folds. The saffron army controls a big slice of Indian polity on the ground and in cyberspace – and what they want eventually is to replace the constitution with a Dharma State where religion would be all-encompassing, with little room for secular values.’ Now because this is a thought that occurs in the mind of a political upstart in 2016, it is easy to take a retrospective walk-through and start making conclusions for 2014… which would, who knows, turn out to be disastrous and utterly wrong. The book anyway isn’t one that aims to predict what is going to happen to India’s political future. It is a simple enough story of a man who has had all the good things in life and has managed to evolve with all his blessings.
But then the book is certainly not what Nineteen Eighty-four was for almost three decades. Orwell published it in 1949 and so there have been quite a few interpretations that analysts said were nearly true in the year that the book was supposed to describe… but not so for this one by Tabrik as the time-gap is barely two years and, therefore, it cannot be read as a predictive text but is surely one that any perceptive mind today could concoct. So the connection between the truth, the untruth, and the unexpected truth makes it a fairly plausible work that can go on a futuristic inquest.
The book begins with grim thoughts on the regular drama that is forever being enacted between India and Pakistan and so we have a liberal sprinkling of Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, fissile material, international black market, political disintegration, emergency protocol, unthinkable devastation… but wait, the book doesn’t go on to introduce a super spy or a RAW agent with super powers with orders to go and destroy all anti-national forces. This order, though is there in the book… but the book swerves onto a stage where political drama, the past of the new Prime Minister Siddhartha, his room-mate at Harvard, economists, and the intent to bring in subversion by thoughts enter and start doing the role that is assigned to them. So we have characters like Rukmini Devi, Professor Gordon Thorburn, Greg, Rubaya and others hop in and out of their real and projected selves to make the plot denser and sometimes incomprehensible at times.
This is one book where all titillations are provided by the suave language of the author and so the little paragraph with some real world sex can always go by unnoticed. But the only sex in the novel is between Thor and Rukmini when ‘without a word, she is swept off her feet. Their lips mingle wetly in breathless fervour. He holds her in a strong bear hug above the floor while she unbuttons the brass ring-buttons of his denim shirt. As she’s lowered, inch by inch, she nuzzles his slightly salty skin. They sink to the floor, her tiny figure riding a perfectly moulded god of power.’ Well, I quoted these lines simply to tell the readers of this review that the author has a rather interesting prose style and seems to have researched well. If this is how Tabrik has described sex, you can imagine how he has gone about talking of life at Harvard, the political circus in India, the policy matters of a nation, the way decisions at the highest echelons are taken… and so on.
Yes, the book has some very grim scenarios too… look at this one where Thor explains to Rukmini how easy it is to manipulate the Indian mob: ‘Doesn’t take much, you know, to change celebration into protest, Still, it went without a hitch. Exactly as I’d predicted. Thousands at Rajpath were attracted like moths to the torches held by the kids. They followed like zombies and went home when the fires went off. Just like that.’ Isn’t this the way things have been happening here these past few years? The book has some really disturbing analysis and I like and dislike it for this… it makes us and our intellectual conclusions stand naked and vulnerable. It is very disconcerting indeed.
The book really is all about change… or as Rukmini wants, a ‘fast-track polymorphic vehicle of change. Something like “fast Vedic Mathematics Versus Slow ordinary Mathematics.” You can call it an active movement to propel our political system into a modern Vedic Age.’ The book actually plunges the reader into the eye of a revolution and we explore its hues as the main protagonist is made to go back in time to link incidents, attitudes, and personalities to make the story reasonably fine.
This one is a book that makes you feel restless and a bit uncomfortable… because you see a lot of what is there in it and feel uneasy because there is always someone else to say that the projected facts are figments of imagination. We are all in the twilight zone of real fiction and the book only strengthens it. The intrigue in the book is pale and anaemic but the political perspectives are live and kicking… and I firmly believe that the book fails miserably as a political thriller but yet remains engaging as a fictional account of all the debates and discussions we Indians have at home, in office, and with friends!
07 April 2014
The review was also published in ‘The Education Post’ dated 14 April 2014…