This will be the most frivolous thing anyone says about this book. But the thought refuses to go away. If Shahrukh or Aamir Khan wanted to produce an Oscar winning, true-to-life film from India, they could flip through 'The Red Market' for inspiration. It's so gritty, so nauseating, so REAL - it's unreal.
I remember wanting to retch reading about the dairy farmer in Gorakhpur who hit on a new way of making money. Trap a lot of junkies from the local bus stand in a tin shed. Bleed them till they can't even get off their beds. Then sell the blood to the local blood bank.
When the cops broke down the doors and took the prisoners to hospital, the doctors didn't know what to do. The men had lost so much fluid, their skin was crinkled like moulting wall paper. Pinch and it wouldn't stretch back again.
Then there's Tsunami Nagar in Tamil Nadu - a slum where every home has an adult with a large white scar across the stomach. Refugees whose lives were destroyed by the Tsunami in 2004, the only way they can support their families now, is to sell their kidneys. The current market rate? Rs 30-40,000.
Fancy surrogate mothers? For just three lakh rupees, women in Anand, Gujarat will carry your unborn child in their womb. Nourish it for nine months, endure torturous labor and at the end - just hand you your little bundle of joy. It isn't that they don't love the baby they've nourished with their own blood. They just desperately need the money to survive.
That polished skeleton in the orthopedic lab in hospitals? Probably belonged to a real man or woman. Bodies are dug up from their graves or snatched away from the funeral pyre. Treated with industrial standard chemicals and then exported. Yours for just fifteen thousand rupees.
Female eggs, adopted children, human organs, skin, hair - they're all harvested and sold commercially. There's an entire industry built on testing new medicines on human guinea pigs. Everything is up for sale - for a price.
The best thing about 'The Red Market' is, it doesn't revel in those mawkish details. Just patiently peels back the layers of misery in each of those stories. It's life seen through the eyes of an extremely thorough journalist. Yet penned with a novelist's subtle touch.
Read 'The Red Market' once and it will haunt you. The next time you try to book a bottle of blood - you'll think long and hard about where it came from.