Daily Archives: December 8, 2010

The Avenue of Kings by Sudeep Chakravarti

I did not read “Tin Fish” when it was released. I haven’t read that till now. However, now I will. I finished “The Avenue of Kings” in one sitting. I was literally taken in and stayed there till I finished the book and even after finishing it, it did not leave me. It remained in my thoughts and still does.

The Avenue of Kings is the kind of book that shakes you from a dream, bringing you back to reality and showing you what the world is really made of.  The take is simple: Real India and real people. So people, who have a problem with reality, then you better, stick to your Harry Potters (which by the way I love) and the hobbits of the shire, because “The Avenue of Kings” is nothing like that.

The Avenue of Kings is a collection of three novellas that come across as raw, uncompromising, not frightened and unapologetic. The first novella, which is also the title of the book centers on the gruesome killing of a Sikh Boy as witnessed by the protagonist Brandy Ray, by a blood-thirsty mod in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

The first novella shook me like no other in this collection. As I type this, I can almost visualize what must have taken place during that time in our country. Indira Gandhi’s assassination was huge and I can only imagine the communal disharmony it would have caused.

The second novella, “The Cradle of Innocents” deals with the dream of Rajiv Gandhi and its fading. You can sense the era gone by – the Sonia and Rajiv Days and their grandeur so to say, the ideas and the opinions that shaped an emerging India, only to bite the dust with RG’s assassination.

The author successfully portrays the disturbed youth of the 80s – the era of Doordarshan, STD Booths, Trunk Calls, and Coca-Cola. A generation that was neither here nor there, trying very hard to fit in and may be could not at some point.

In the third novella, “The Well of Three Wishes” we are taken to taking asylum in fantasy when faced with grief. Grief can make you go to crazy a place – happy or sad, real or imaginary – that’s the power of grief. This part recreates the tensed situation surrounding the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

We see how the deadliest weapon of them all – the sickened mind is used to sow seeds of dissent and destruction. Brandy in this time turns to old Jinni-baba, of the well of wishes, ending the novel with a sense of hope at the end of the tunnel in the form of little Aziza – the symbol of peace, the symbol of new India.  

Chakravarti brings out the worst of the times, and manages to do that keeping his wits about himself. The collection of novellas is surely disturbing; however it leaves you with a sense of disquiet and optimism at the end of it all. I for one am looking forward to reading more of Brandy’s adventures for sure.

The Avenue of Kings; Chakravarti, Sudeep; Harper Collins India; Rs. 299;