Indira as inspiration

Sudeep Chakravarti's book, The Avenue of Kings, draws upon the assassination of Indira Gandhi, whose birth anniversary is this week

Sudeep Chakravarti
Sudeep Chakravarti

The assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi 26 years ago is one of the subjects of writer Sudeep Chakravarti's new book, The Avenue of Kings, a set of three novellas.

The book will be published by HarperCollins-India in November end. Indira Gandhi was assassinated Oct 31, 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards in the Indian capital. In the ensuing riots, thousands of people, mostly Sikhs, were killed across the country. According to the author, The Avenue of Kings is a collection of three novellas, each set in a span of few days in the capital and the not-yet Kolkata."

It recreates the brutal chaos in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's killing, the fading dream of her son Rajiv Gandhi and the tragically-altered mindscapes from the demolition of the Babri Mosque - events that changed the course of Indian politics in many ways.

Chakravarti, known for his books, Tin Fish and Red Sun, journeys back in time to capture the mayhem and riots following Indira Gandhi's brutal murder, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and the Babri Mosque demolition in a fictionalised account. The Avenue of Kings is his fourth book, a spokesperson for HarperCollins-India said. The tales are interlinked and the characters, Brandy Ray and his friends Suya, Dipi and Porridge (evolved to Mike) and PT Shoe (now Pat) are drawn from the book, Tin Fish, the spokesperson said.

The novella about the assassination of Indira Gandhi begins with the riots in the capital after the former prime minister's brutal killing.

"A Sikh man, we called them Surdies-ran towards us from the east, the direction of Eros cinema, with a small mob behind him...He wasn't making much speed, wearing rubber slippers and all," Chakravarti writes.

"You should have worn jogging shoes, I screamed silently. I was so afraid I felt like pissing....'He's dead, he's dead,' Veggie Man muttered to himself," he adds. "...The Surdie started to come apart. His slippers went first, this way and that...The guy's turban came undone, the long sky-blue cloth trailing, before someone in the yelling crowd, ever closer, stepped on one end and yanked the unravelling turban off his head," the writer goes on to describe.

"...The Sikh boy-man was screaming. 'What have I done?' he kept asking over and over as he ran," Chakravarti conjures up the horror. The book subsequently allows the reader to witness the terror of the violence as Brandy and his friends live through it, scarred though as the politics of India changes irrevocably with the demise of its first prime minister.

The writer is currently engaged in completing a work of non-fiction related to security in India and South Asia which will be published 2011, a collection of travel writing, and a collection of short stories.

Chakravarti, who began a career in media at The Asian Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, later held senior positions at Sunday magazine, India Today and the Hindustan Times. He moved from New Delhi to Goa in 2004 to pursue writing and research. IANS







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