Black Light (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2010) ISBN 9788172238391
This is the new improved version of Live Like a Flame, published in August 2010.
Satyasandha Sarkar’s aunt Medha, a strange, misunderstood, forsaken woman, has died by her own hand. Satya comes to realise that Medhasri Sen was at war with the woman everyone thought she was. Everyone thought she was a simple housewife, although a bit odd in her behaviour, but after her death Satya realises that he hardly knew her. All he knew was that her marriage had been stormy, she had had twin daughters, one of whom was disabled. Her husband left her when the twins were five and emigrated with the healthy daughter to America; they’re separated but divorce is out of the question, as the family won’t hear of it. The other daughter dies in her teens, leaving Medha alone.
Her life seems quite ordinary, until Satya discovers that before her death she had laid for him a trail of clues that now lead him to five stories she has hidden in five different places; each story is linked to the place where he finds it, and some of the characters in them mirror the real people who played a part in her life. He also finds artworks she has made there and left as gifts and mementos to the people who crossed her path. When he finishes retracing her steps, he finally pieces together a picture of who she was.
In the process, Satya discovers that he too was in free fall like Medha. He decides to change the course of his life.
Though Medha apparently gave up her struggle, leaving only her hidden treasures to testify to her life, Satya finds salvation in telling her story, as does Bilasha, Medha’s lost daughter who returns to take charge of her mother’s legacy.
The City of Love, Penguin India, 2007) ISBN
Shortlisted for the Vodafone Crossword Book Award 2007.
“Only when you have been joined with another, then sundered, will you feel the shape of your own soul in the lines of your grief.”
Five hundred years before the present, four very different people are setting out to discover the heart of truth. In the process, one will travel to the ends of the known world and question everything he knows, another will meddle with the fates of kings, a third will lose all he has, and a fourth will find the city of love.
Set in the half-century after Vasco da Gama’s landfall in India, against the background of the spice trade, piracy, and the quest for enlightenment and bags of gold, this story traces the intertwined lives of Fernando Almenara, a Castilian merchant; Daud Suleiman al-Basri, a Moorish pirate; Chandu, a Shaiva Tantric initiate; and Bajja, a tribal girl who struggles for freedom and enlightenment until she masters the world and herself. In it, Sufism encounters the Tantra, Vaishnavism rises, Mughal armies clash with the Sultan of Bengal, Arakan pirates rule the eastern oceans, and the face of the world is forever changed.
As the story moves from Chittagong, foremost port of the east, to Gaur, the capital of Bengal at the time of Humayunâ€™s contest with Sher Shah, the characters are caught up in the crosscurrents set free by the coming of Europeans to India, and by the advent of the mighty Mughal Empire. They are all of them in search of the hidden world where nothing is what it seems, for only by understanding that world will they acquire mastery of the heights they desire. This story follows them into that unknown country, until at last it stands at the gates of the city itself.
Cover design by Pinaki De.
Signal Red: A Novel, Penguin India, 2005, ISBN 0143032623
This story is set in a near-future world where a totalitarian government is ruling India. It centres around the way science happens under state control, and the ethical options open to scientists.
Gopal Chandran is a researcher in a semi-secret Defense installation in the wilds of Bundelkhand. He got his doctorate at Cambridge University, where he also met his future wife, Vidura, who was born in Kenya and grew up in London. Now Anu, their sociologist friend from university days, has come visiting. But neither of the Chandrans know why sheâ€™s really there.
Anu asks questions. Gopal doesnâ€™t like that, and when he finds out that sheâ€™s secretly researching the lives of defense scientists, he forces her to leave. But the questions wonâ€™t go away, and slowly Gopal learns the real story behind what is being done at his centre. His journey takes him into the depths of a maze that seems to have no exit. And at last, on the run, he confronts the truth.
Cover designed by Pinaki De.
‘The Garden of Bombahia’ in Wasafiri 24(3):98-106.
‘Jessica’ in Vislumbres: Bridging India and Iberoamerica 1 (2008):58-9.
‘The First Rasa’ in Kolkata Book City: Readings, Fragments, Images (Edinburgh: Textualities, 2009).