Here in India, we accept that corruption is a part of the political system and the bureaucracy at least to some extent. But in banking? I hadn't even entertained the thought. And not just in Indian banks, international banks! So that's the premise of this novel, which is one heck of a read. Yes, unputdownable and addictive are words which spring to mind.
Indian fiction in English is unique. For one thing, different rules apply. If the bank ran 'very efficiently', well that's because it happened in India, my friends. 'Very efficiently' is a phrase unique to Indian English and I really wouldn't have it any other way. The dialogue fairly sparkles with 'Hinglish' phrases, replies like 'haan yaar' and the prose has that Indian flavour which those of us who live here will immediately indentify. One beauty of a phrase I spotted was , 'a cup of cutting chai'. It hit the spot like nothing else and for an English speaker like me who lives in the Hindi belt, provided great reading entertainment.
Like the storyteller that he is, Subramanian weaves a tapestry of various threads, one beginning in Angola, one in Kerala and one in Mumbai, the main one being Mumbai. We don't actually get to link the three together until the final scenes close in. The author will surprise you every so often, sometimes withholding key information in order to add impact to a scene. The characters definitely come alive on the page and the reader engages with them as the story develops. I didn't find it difficult to keep on reading although the three threads seemed quite separate. Scheherazade like, he keeps you hanging on so you've got to keep coming back. The closure is satisfying and makes you glad you read the novel through.
Anything negative to say? Very little if at all. Just one or two things maybe. Although the dialogue flowed naturally for the most part, I detected a slightly stilted piece of dialogue a very odd time. Like the time when Harshita Lele's husband tells her that she's still as lovely as she was when he married her seven years before. Sweet. But wouldn't you think she'd know how long she's been married? Also, the bank in Mumbai thread switched main characters several times. First the main character was Vikram. Then it switched to Nikhil. Then for a short while, Anand. Then Raymond. Then Karan. It's like they were passing the baton from one to the other. You engage with a character, then he's gone. But it's a minor complaint really. I'm not going to crib about it.
Indian popular fiction is coming of age. So well done, Ravi Subramanian. You've done a nice job here!
My sincere apologies to Ravi Subramanian and Blogadda for the late publication of this review. I'm afraid I was carried away by Diwali madness and couldn't get into reading for a week or two.
This book is available in India where all good books are sold.
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