Thursday, 12 February 2015

Book Review: The Persecution of Madhav Tripathi by Aditya Sudarshan

Aditya Sudarshan, author of A Nice Quiet Holiday and Show Me A Hero, has come up with his third novel. When I finished reading the first page of The Persecution of Madhav Tripathi, I had started to believe that Sudarshan’s latest offering is a gently flowing story with a simple mystery or crime to be solved, something on the lines of his first (A Nice Quiet Holiday), not unlike an Agatha Christie, with maybe a touch of Wodehouse.

However, after I turned a few more pages and found out that Madhav was an important officer in the Ministry, I thought I detected a hint of George Orwell’s 1984. As I read further, it seemed I was a bit off the mark. There was no Big Brother and I didn’t know where I was headed, until I realised that I was in a Matrix. You know how it is. One can’t explain the Matrix. You’ve got to read it for yourself to find out.

Persecution comes in various forms and intensity levels. Usually it is the weak or meek who are persecuted. Minorities may feel persecuted when they are denied their rights. However, Madhav Tripathi is a successful bureaucrat, in good health, a week short of his thirtieth birthday and does not really have an excuse to feel persecuted. Also, it’s not just Madhav who is persecuted. Even Shivani, his pretty girlfriend, is targeted.

Can one be persecuted by one’s own thoughts? If yes, would that be the result of one’s guilt? And why should Madhav or Shivani feel guilty? Sudarshan does offer a few clues – the country-side has been devastated by something, possibly famine. Humans live like animals, having possibly mutated. No, we are still in India, an India with slums and dirt and a lot of riff-raff, a place almost unrecognisable to the reader. Would a murderer feel persecuted by his victim’s relatives who may possibly be searching for him, in their quest for revenge? Should Madhav Tripathi feel persecuted as he works his way up the ranks of the Ministry, under the tutelage of the ever-so-powerful Secretary?

Madhav Tripathi’s oppressors are a determined lot. They do not wilt under pressure. Though they seem to be working class, they seem to be everywhere. Madhav’s friends and well-wishers are equally determined and they too take casualties. Unlike Sudarshan’s first two novels, The Persecution of Madhav Tripathi has a lot more violence and dead bodies, though most dead bodies do come back to life.

I liked Nisha a lot. Nisha is Madhav’s previous girlfriend and she reminded me of a character from the French Revolution, strong, powerful and determined. At times, The Persecution of Madhav Tripathi seemed to be set in the cusp of a violent revolution. Does Madhav’s guilt on account of his own success and the poverty around him cause him to image the revolution and persecution?

Sudarshan writes very well and I’d say that he has definitely evolved as a writer. His prose is limpid, yet beautiful. The Persecution of Madhav Tripathi is a brilliant and cunning fantasy novel that leads to nowhere and yet takes the reader places.

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