Sikander Bansi, an unlikely political heir in Delhi, secretly records politicians in Parliament as they haggle to become cabinet ministers, bag defense contracts, dodge criminal charges and collect corporate largesse. Among them is a rising leader of the People’s Party, Nalan Malik, whose success has come through unscrupulous means. When Sikander suddenly disappears, Mira Mouli, a newspaper journalist with an unusual gift of knowing people’s thoughts, receives the controversial Parliament tapes along with clues to find him. She is attracted to Sikander’s principles and is wary of Nalan’s deceit. But her powers of knowing tell her a different story, one that she can unravel only at the cost of her life. From the bestselling author of Shoes of the Dead, this is disturbing political fiction that reveals why Parliament functions behind gates closed to the public.
It gives me immense pleasure to let you know that I’ve read one of the finest books by an Indian writer in 2016. Yes, it’s a political fiction and I’m quite wary of politics in India. Yet it is the apprehension that egged me to pick up this book. A Twitter chat with the author prior to start reading the book confirmed that her novel is worth every minute. In this month of Assembly elections in four crucial Indian states, the book comes as a necessity. It aims at exposing what happens inside the ominous white Assembly buildings – the shady dealings, the breach of trust, the whispers that never escape those marble pillars into commonality.
The story begins with a glimpse of the protagonist Mira’s super powers. She can read thoughts while listening to a person and knows what they’re thinking. So she’s a know-journalist. The book is based on utilizing her powers, but never misusing them. Mira is involved into a dangerous game of hide and seek by politician Sikander Bansi that spills the secrets of the Parliament. She can’t escape without solving the clues and in the process only gets hurt. The author has made great efforts to build the character of Mira, word by word, and we are let into her dark and gloomy world. There are other politicians like Nalan Malik who is hard to gauge, Sikander Bansi in his various avatars, Mira’s boss and editor Bidur Munshi, her colleague Salat Vasudev, and the rain. I think it’s the rain that drives the story forward and gives it such a poetic aura.
I haven’t read Kota Neelima before, but I’m mighty impressed by her writing. It is lucid, often poetic and flowing like a river with the characters’ thoughts. The plot, is quite relieved of loopholes and flaws. Don’t make the blurb turn you jittery in anticipation of dry politics and ideologies. If you read closely, you’ll find the characters and events very similar to many politicians that everyone knows. And if you pay a little more attention, you’ll find answers to a few incidents that racked the country recently. Kota Neelima enthralls us with all her insider information and experience as a political journalist. It is not easy to write stories based on real events and people, but the author has done it with great aplomb and almost flawlessly.
It is very rare among IWE (Indian Writers in English) these days that a book snatches all 5 stars from a grumpy reviewer like me. Hence, highly recommended, for every possible reason.
P.S. My favourite character turned out to be Nalan Malik – the grey one. Read the book and tell me who’s your favourite.
My Rating: 5/5
About the Author:
Kota Neelima has been a journalist for over twenty years, covering politics in New Delhi, India. She is Senior Research Fellow, South Asia Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced international Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC. Her recent academic research in India on perception seeks to develop a structure based on rural and urban voter choices .Her previous books include the bestselling Shoes of the Dead and Death of a Moneylender, among others. Also a well-known painter, Neelima’s works are a part of several collections in India and abroad, including the Museum of Sacred Art, Belgium.
Language: English, Genre: Fiction/Politics
Author(s): Kota Neelima
Publisher: Random House India, Year Published: December 2015
Binding: Paperback, Edition: First, Pages: 376
ISBN-13: 978-8184005851 , ISBN-10: 8184005857
Reviewed for: Writersmelon