Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games


While it was a tomb to read and extremely uncomfortable to carry around (a must for books I read),  it was still a fantastic read.

My experience while reading more books by the same author don’t always turn out as good as the first book – Shashi Tharoor, Arundhati Roy, Anurag Mathur, Upmanyu Chaterjee…. Of course, this is more an exception than a rule but I am always worried when authors who win prizes and then take ages to bring the next book out.

After reading ‘Love and Longing in Mumbai’, I carried around that little nugget with me—Sartaj Singh was to be the protagonist of a whole novel! That was quite something as that small case in that story was not enough and you were left wanting.

Over the years I forgot all about it. Whenever I’d see a picture of Vikram Chandra or come across a reference to his prize-winning book, I’d think of the expected novel and wonder if by the it came out.. would I still want to read about a Sardar police inspector and his quirky habits.

But then out came the book after seven long years and here I am. There was no turning back from the first page itself. In one word – its like reading a typical Hindi movie. And for all those don’t like Hindi movies- scat!

The only jarring thing and blessing in another way is –that the book is in English. I mean, of course, that’s a boon. Had the book actually been written in Hindi, I would still be reading it – like a book in syllabus. Its jarring because Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh and all other ancillaries like Mary, Katekar and Parulkar.. also spout more or less correct English—even giving ‘gyaan’ in it.

But that apart, a lovely book! It’s a parallel narrative with Gaitonde killing himself right in the beginning and Singh starting to investigate even this case along with the other cases. Then begins the actual story.

Alternating chapters describe the forming of both these guys and how they came to that point in the book where they are face to face. The difference, again, being only the Gaitonde is speaking (telling Singh his story through his last night) while Singh’s is a third person narrative.

Ganesh, young man turns into a gangster and proceeds to do all kinds of misdeeds, always escaping by the skin of his teeth while Sartaj sees his larger-than-life father move through this police life and deciding to become a police officer instead. Their ups and down, failed relationships, creeping into some what mid-life crisis. Its has twists and turns which are so exciting that often while driving back home I would imagine the next cup of coffee & conversation between Mary and Sartaj.

Its interesting, racy, has ‘masala’ and flashback in flashback, lots and lots of Mumbai (made me homesick that) and the requisite ending of boy-getting-girl. Of course and you constantly draw parallels to relate those incidents to real life.

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