Tuhin A Sinha's protagonist Shruti Ranjan, at first glance, could be any of us. A newspaper journalist in a live-in relationship with a TV reporter, she agrees to an arranged marriage after discovering her boyfriend is involved with her best friend.
So far, so cliched. But this is not going to be a rom-com chick lit beach-read. Sinha aims at a gritty political page-turner, and even before his heroine has adjusted to life with her prim IAS husband, she is gang-raped by a local goon and his men. Denied justice, publicly humiliated, Shruti grabs the opportunity offered by politician-on-the-rise Sharad Malviya. Within months, she's an MP, a minister, and then the Bihar Chief Minister. Her rapist is thrown in jail (but naturally) though her past is dragged into the front pages and will continue to be ammunition in the hands of her detractors. The book's opening pages show Shruti in jail and the next 300-odd pages trace the journey that took her there.
Here's what I liked. The book's immensely pacey - mirroring exactly the frenetic developments in Indian politics where a split second can transform people's lives. Sinha's made good use of real-life events as markers in Shruti's political and personal life. The Mahabharata metaphor is thought-provoking and Sinha's also done a fair job of showing the different, often clashing sides of his characters' personalities. In fact, I would have enjoyed more of an insight into Rohit's journey from a smug bureaucrat in the boondocks to a traumatised husband who wants, more than anything, a clean break with the past.
Author Tuhin Sinha\'s writing style comes as a bit of a shock - don\'t expect it to be a Rushdie or Chaudhury.
Sinha's writing style came as a bit of a shock - don't expect it to be a Rushdie or Chaudhury. Clunky and inelegant, it may possibly reflects the English spoken and written by a large section of Indians today, but it didn't really add to my reading pleasure.
What really depressed me though was Shruti's fond endorsement of an arranged marriage for Sharad Malviya's daughter towards the end of the book. Is this the author's way of saying nothing changes, not even the mindset of a woman who's an icon for emancipation? When all's done and dusted, Shruti Ranjan is a woman who's lived life on her own terms, who's agreed to an arranged marriage only after a love affair goes sour, who's turned a traumatic rape into a political triumph, who's walked away from a failed marriage with very little regret. Yet she's still tied to the three men in her life. with her happiness fluctuating in direct proportion to her relationship status. She defines herself by her men so strongly that the only thing that shakes her out of depression after Sharad Malviya's death is the need to support his daughter. So despite Sinha's obviously sincere attempt to get under the skin of the modern Indian woman, I'm left at the end wondering if the author, rather than his protagonist, has learnt any lessons.
Book: The Edge Of Desire; Author: Tuhin A. Sinha; Publisher: Hachette; Format: Paperback; Language: English