Sunday, 18 August 2013

Book Review: Delhi Durbar by KP Singh


Delhi Durbar is the 2nd book of the Raisina Series written by Krishan Partap Singh, a series based on Indian Politics and New Delhi

Awesome book, from an awesome series... this one is a real treat. And it is a treat from more than just the plot perspective; the series has taken my breath away with its ingenuity and sheer courage in treading untreaded paths, and going where no book has done before. I have said it before - and I am saying it again; Indian Fiction (Non-Fiction as well, of course) writing is taking massive strides every passing month. The sheer skill, imagination and guts portrayed by Indian Authors is a delight to behold. The plots and the genres that are emerging are unique and very Indian in their backdrop and approach, which make them a far cry from the pointless and senseless spy thrillers that are the norm from the West. Kudos to all the occupants of the Indian Fiction and Non-Fiction authors club! Keep it up!

The book is written in the first person - and is told through the mouth and eyes of Jasjit Singh Sidhu, the son of a powerful power broker at the national scene. A banker himself. Jasjit is employed with one of the Swiss banks, and specialises in garnering and managing Indian business. Enticing as the thought is, this fact is incidental to the story line, and only forms that background and support for the real plot, which is a humdinger! The untimely death of his father pulls Jasjit against his will - and entwines him in the ruthless power game that is New Delhi coalition politics and corruption. 

What makes things doubly interesting is that Jasjit's wife is the daughter of the ex-chief of Army Staff and currently Vice President of India, who incidentally cannot stand the person (or even the mention, as a matter of fact) of Mr Jasjit Singh Sidhu. What elevates this interesting relationship to the level of unforgettable is that the redoubtable General, who is obviously scared of no one, is scared shit of his daughter - who is deeply in love with both the men in her life, who just happen to be fighting a World War among themselves! To make this plot even more fascinating, the General has some skeletons in his cupboard; and what is more has a  naked ambition. And best of all, Mr Jasjit Singh Sidhu, the unmentionable and unfortunately Son-in-law, is firmly in the camp of his arch enemy, The Prime Minister. Not only that, Jasjit wants out - but cannot say so. The wife wants out - and can and does say so in no uncertain terms to both the commandoes in war with each other. That is the fascinating backdrop to the political scenario

This scenario is no stranger to us - a coalition government headed by a corrupt stand-by Prime Minister. This guy wants to get rich quick - quicker than quick, in fact. Tough part for him is that his fixer in chief - a certain gentlemen going by the name of Mr Sidhu (the elder one) decides to meet his maker. Inconvenient - to say the least. Especially since this gentleman handles all the moolah, such that Mr I. Tax doesnt get wind of it, and Ms C. BI dont get a whiff of the unsavoury deals that gave birth to these piles (and I mean piles, quite literally) of cash. Enter Sidhu junior, the Swiss banker. All is well again, you say?

Well, now, you forgot The General  - yes, the very same I-cant-stand-Sidhu-Junior General. He wants to clean up the scene -in the most effective way, and decides that the Pakistanis have had it right all along, and that a Presidential system is what this nation needs, with, of course, an Armed forces variety President in charge! And you also forgot that pesky lady - Mrs Conscience, the wife of Mr Honest Decency, who picks this very moment to visit Sidhu Junior. And you also forgot Mr I Tax, Mr Media and Ms C BI. (all of whom, despite never finding even a mention in the book, are ever present - an incongruity that highlight the power of institutions and the Media), the fear of whom ensure that Mrs Conscience is firmly in check in Mr Sidhu's mind, and Mr Honest Decency stays well away from Sidhu Junior's residence.  And I havent yet told you about 2 bystanders...

Meet Azim Khan and Retired Major Karan Nehru. Both true blue idealists, best friends, Both these gentlemen (no pun intended, true gentlemen. Well, Azim at least. Karan - well, you decide after reading the series!) have apparently used the Prime Minister as a stop-gap till a more permanent solution can be found, and both of whom find the ugly tactics of the PM unhealthy for everyone. They want both PM and thr President out. Poor Sidhu, hemmed in on all sides - his wife wants out; his partners in crime want in, he is undecided, as he has to get out without landing in trouble himself - is the only one who can solve the matter, as the warring parties - The President and The PM, can be approached only by him. Who won? Read the book!

A fast paced page turner filled with hair-pin twists and turns along every mile of the long road, the book is one-of-a-kind, for reasons that I shall connect up with in the review of Young Turks, which is the first part of the series. Readers are advised to read the books in order only, as only then will they make sense of the characters and the power of each character. The first person account serves to take you deep into the quagmire of dirty politics and corruption, and hear it from the horses mouth. It is this approach that makes it unique. Taken together with  the first book, whose plot plays almost side-by-side with this book, it makes for a deeply engaging read and gives the reader of fascinating insight into the corridors of power. I shall delve into a detailed analysis in the review of Young Turks, which is deeply connected to this book... 

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