Attention is like that ‘fine line between life and death’ transforming a thriller into a readable book or being shelved for some future reading which is as good as it being sentenced to a life in company of millions of unread words. Every book looks for the zealot lurking inside a reader, and who is ‘fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of ideals’… but then the zealots that this book finally zeroes in on are not really in pursuit of ideals. They happen to be a part of that radicalised segment who have been brain-washed to spread terror and nothing else. Their reasons aren’t reasons but forced doctrines.
Abdul Zafar happens to be one such character. ‘The boy had gradually shunned his friends at college and had begun to spend most of his time lecturing on the perceived wrongs inflicted upon the Muslim community in places such as Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Kashmir.
The process of radicalization had begun.’
This charm of this book is that this book neither begins with the conventional forms of terrorism nor ends with them… most of the book delves into gruesome killings and we find Santosh Wagh getting all worked up trying to find some meaning into these random killings. At one stage these killings lead him to surmise that the murders of all these women was also connected to the nine avatars of Durga. ’Nisha quickly flipped the page and found that the second avatar was called Brahmacharini. She was pictured with one hand holding a water pot, and another holding a rosary.’ This analysis linked the murder of Bhavna Choksi with this avatar… and to their horror they discover that the characteristics of other avatars like Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Kaalratri, and Mahagauri too had clear and distinct links with the murders. The other avatars were probably not far… and this is what transforms murder into such a gruesome act. You know that they are going to take place… and the links are shouting out all possible pointers… and yet… and yet man and his analytical self waits helplessly for destiny to unfold at its own pace.
Like any other reader would, I too sat up at this surprising connection and then said to myself, ‘This is vintage Ashwin Sanghi. No one else could have even thought of this.’ Well, Ashwin and James Patterson have gone one step ahead this time… they ‘have collaborated for the first time to bring Patterson’s popular ‘Private’ series to India. Private is called one of the finest private investigation agencies with branches around the world, a smart but obvious technique for Patterson to be in cahoots with writers from various countries and churn out Private Berlin, Private LA and Private London,’ writes Prachi Bhuchar. Well, James Patterson himself writes… ‘If you look at a lot of art in Europe, many of them are the work of collaboration between artists. Similarly, look at Hollywood or even television shows-it is all collaborative, hence not unusual. Somehow, when it comes to books, people find it tough to understand. When you collaborate, you have to listen to the other person.’ So if this is a smart way, then this is the way being adopted by the publishing world in a big way now. Even Blogadda, Readomania, Writersmelon and many others in India have taken to it and are making bloggers collaborate to produce books. This interesting development is surely going to stay.
But coming back to ‘Private India’, a book by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson that claims to be about the season for murders in Mumbai, murders and murderers are not left without the writers at least attempting to dissect their way into their psyches. The murders taking place in Mumbai don’t seem to be linked… and yet they are… but they are also cold-blooded and deliberate and ooze with an incessant urge of the perpetrator to do it differently and with style.
“The killer enjoys the act of killing, and I dare say it excites in him intense emotions, but he hasn’t changed his modus operandi. There is no experimental edge to them.”
She looked at him. “Experimental edge?”
“If you enjoy painting, do you paint the same picture every time?” he asked her. “Does a photographer take the same photo?”
Yes, the sleuths who are trying to make their way from silent gurneys to vocal psychopaths realise that it wasn’t really a ‘silencing’ sort of crime, and also that the conventional one woman’s hobby could often be another woman’s hubby sort of conclusion wouldn’t be very off the mark when reaching out to motives… but there was more to these murders than just a few women who seemed distant and unconnected. “All the victims were women,” replied Santosh mechanically. “None of them was sexually assaulted. All of them were killed by strangulation with a yellow garrotte. The security firm at all three murder sites was the same. There was no forced entry at any of the locations. There was no trace of evidence except for a single strand of hair – minus any DNA – at all three murder sites. The stranger left props – varying across the killings – at all the murder sites.”
Santosh has another interesting story about the yellow scarves being used for the murders. “I remember my grandmother recounting to me a legend in which Durga once fought a ferocious demon. Unfortunately, each drop of the monster’s blood would spawn yet another monster. Durga finally created two men, each armed with yellow scarves, and ordered them to strangle the demons – in effect killing the monsters without allowing them to multiply. I assume that the thuggee tradition of yellow scarves has its genesis in that story.”
This book is all about murders… and killers. No, it is certainly not about terror plots the way other authors deal with terror plots. The terror angle emerges… quite unexpectedly, but I was personally disappointed by its appearance. It makes the book take the usual gutted path when there was no need to. You don’t need to drag in terrorists and Pakistan and the ISI for no rhyme or reason… come on, Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson, you should’ve stayed put with the enigma of murders that have Hindu mythology so intricately woven into it. But then, terror was the only way to show an international link to a localised set of murders. Even Santosh says: ‘Give me one murder to solve and I’ll show you an enigma, he thought. Give me two, and I’ll show you a puzzle to solve.’ Now, this enigma is the unsolved maze where non-state players make their entrance, rather abruptly, and seem to hover somewhere in the haze around this maze. No, if you’re going to read this book to savour terrorism, this book is far from amazing… but if it is murders that interest you, you’ll be rather glad to be reading bits like this one:
Of course, most people live like corpses in the humdrum grip of their prosaic and pathetic lives. Not much difference between life and death for the world’s living cadavers.
Murders are not necessarily because of spies lurking in the shadows… or slimy terrorists waiting to place another bomb somewhere. Murders can be just murders… and I wish this book was just that.
Details of the book:
Title: Private India
Authors: Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson
Publisher: Arrow Books
Buy this book from Amazon.in here: Private India
Buy this book from Flipkart here: Buy Private India
26 September 2014