Prior to reading this book, I had absolutely no knowledge about the 1984 riots. I just knew that Operation Bluestar was something related to Indira Gandhi, and that’s it. It’s not something I’m proud of.
But reading “The Assassinations: A Novel of 1984” by Vikram Kapur has given me a much-needed insight into the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. An insight that has left me feeling a lot more pessimistic about the motivations of humankind in general.
The plot of the book goes like this:
Prem Kohli, the handsome, ambitious son of a Sikh refugee, has the world at his feet. A glittering career lies ahead, and he has just got engaged to his Hindu college girlfriend, Deepa. Deepa’s father, Jaswant, is skeptical about the future of his daughter and to-be son-in-law. After all, the sentiment of the public in Delhi in the 1980s was not positive. Being a government official, Jaswant had access to all the reports that were not meant for public eye. And the picture they painted was not a bed of roses.
And then comes Operation Bluestar. Prem, a lukewarm Sikh till the day this happens, cannot contain his rising anger at the desecration of the shrine and the callous attitude of people around him. He begins growing out his hair and beard, and visiting the gurudwara regularly. Till Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated and anti-Sikh riots break out all over Delhi, Prem is trying to balance two things: his growing rage against the perpetrators of such anti-Sikh violence, and his love for Deepa.
But after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, all hell breaks loose. The choices Prem makes affect the lives of everyone in his family, as well as Deepa’s family.
What I liked about this book is that it has been perfectly executed in terms of writing style and language. I was totally immersed into the lives of the characters, earnestly hoping that they all escape unscathed from the horrific year of 1984. I could feel the pain that the characters went through. The details of the horrors of 1984 were painted too realistically. Almost as if the author witnessed them himself first-hand. I had goosebumps when I read the paragraphs which detailed the horrors that the Sikhs went through.
This book is a short read. It took me 2 hours to complete the book. I wasn’t quite happy with the length of the book, though. I wanted more perspectives, more examples of how people’s lives turned upside down. But then, I also understand that taking an example of two families, one Hindu, one Sikh, in the context of 1984 made perfect sense. Anything else would have been irrelevant to the plot.
Also, this work of fiction is meant to give the reader a glimpse of the countless number of lives that were affected by the riots. And thanks to reading this book, I am going to keep my eyes peeled open for any more literature relating to the 1984 riots.
Another interesting point: the author mentions the word “Assassinations” in the title of the book. “Assassination” is generally a word used only to indicate the killing of an eminent personality in the field of politics. The fact that the author used the word in the plural indicates that the lives of the people who died mattered just as much as the assassination of the Prime Minister, in the context of the future of the country.
I give this book a 4/5 star rating, and recommend it to readers from the age bracket 18-30, especially if you haven’t read/ heard/ had someone close to you experience the tragedy of 1984. This book will be a real eye-opener to you.
Note: I received a fee copy of this book from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest book review.