I have read a few books on the life and death of Mrs Gandhi but none that exclusively talks about the assassination and the riot that followed. Indira by Sagarika Ghose talks briefly about the episode but it hardly does justice in describing the massacre. This particular book, I can conveniently say, is the first striking read for me on the subject.
When I received the book the red and black cover page did look striking, beautiful even. But I understood the meaning of it all well after I finished the book. The redness flaring up in the book is the fire that consumed two important lives in the Story. There are also several eyes as if they are looking into the fire. One can easily spot the tyres at the bottom. It all adds up to give you a brief of the story inside. However, I like the covers that mean you come back to after you have finished the story and this one is definitely one of those. People at The Speaking Tiger have done a great job at it.
The book is not character driven but incidents driven. Therefore not much work is put in describing each character in the story as compared to what they did. However, there are two central characters in the book around which the story revolves. Prem is a handsome young man with blue eyes. He is an MBA that makes him an eligible bachelor in the eyes of all parents. Deepa is a young college going girl who dares to fall in love with a Sikh. It is the story of these two characters and how they change lives of others around them.
The book is divided into three parts- before assassination, after assassination and 2004, each drawing its reference from an event that no one in the story had anything to do with. The book starts with before the assassination of Mrs Gandhi. This is when Deepa and Prem are madly in love with each other. They are from different religions but their parents are happy to arrange their marriage. Deepa’s parents see a well do to doctor family and an MBA groom. They see a better future for their daughter with Prem than any civil servant. Prem’s parents on the other hand are happy to have a khandaani daughter-in-law from an affluent family. The lovers get engaged to be married very soon.
Until, they receive a new - Mrs Gandhi is shot. And a few hours later - Mrs Gandhi is dead. These two sentences turn their lives upside down. Prem who never grew beard or went to a Gurudrwara starts doing both. He is a changed man and Deepa realises it soon when he saw her as ‘Hindu’ and not the love of her life. The riot that follows destroys each life. Each person’s story is told with a staggering detail. The narration is skillfully sympathetic. It does not attack anyone but questions the repercussions. Was only Mrs. Gandhi assassinated or were there plenty of lives that followed her after the riot important too? Get the plural in the title?
I absolutely loved the strategic sectioning of the story. The characters were played well until their parts get over. If I write more I would be revealing important bits of the story. But I would like to discuss this book further with those who have read it. It a short book but each sentence makes you think. The story ends with third part where the author talks about the life of the future generation that is often reminded of the link they shared with those dark times.
This is the best part of the book (I have implied that for each section, haven’t I?). The language is very simple. It is like telling a tale to someone without being dramatic. The simple narration is what does the trick for the author. Kapur possess a skill and he is damn confident about it.
The cover page is not only stunning, it’s intelligent. The content is heart wrenching. This is a book that will make you think whether it was worth it all. The language is simple. The narration is gripping.
I wish I had know more about the characters and not just about the parts they played in the story. But as I said, the story is event driven and not character driven so you will not find anything amiss.
I can safely say I have found my first good read of the new year.
Whom do I recommend this to
This book is for all those who like studying humanities. Those with keen interest in history and historical fiction are going to love this too.
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