I stumbled on to this book on a friend’s timeline and put it on hold at my local library. As someone working on a book of her own, I am forever on the lookout for books by Indian authors. So, this seemed a promising read.
The book starts with a bomb going off in a crowded marketplace. Two boys lose their life and the third runs away. What follows is almost a kaleidoscopic view of the implosion following the bomb attack. The survivors, the victims, the terrorists and the lives they touch. The book zooms in and out of the various scenes effortlessly, switching POVs and zooming out to paint a general picture. The language is rich and evocative bringing to life the Delhi of the solid middle class and the crowds jostling in Lajpat Nagar. You can feel the heat, smell the dust and are blinded by the vibrancy of details.
As someone who has grown up in Madras of yore, I could picture this happening in any big city in India or elsewhere. For me, this book was a visceral experience. As someone learning the craft of writing, I found Mahajan’s approach to putting the story first and the audience later work very well. The book does not compromise or cater to a specific audience and the story is the real winner here. Diversity and Own Voices is a trend in publishing and books like these need to be heard and seen.
Towards the end of the book, I felt myself zoning out unable to connect with Ayub’s POV or compulsion to turn terrorist but that did not stop me from finishing the book or savoring the incredible writing.
It is not a book for everyone. If you like literary books that take a hard hitting view and does not flinch from the hard stuff, this book is for you. Definitely a book worth another read for me.