Black Light (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2010)
This is the new improved version of Live Like a Flame, due out in April next year.
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. He is driven to recall what he knows about her. This is precious little: her dysfunctional marriage, her NRI husband who seems unmoved by her death, her two lost daughters, one dead, the other taken from her as a child.
Her story 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 left as gifts and mementos to them. 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 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 (New Delhi: Penguin, 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 Humayun’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 (New Delhi: Penguin, 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 she’s really there.
Anu asks questions. Gopal doesn’t like that, and when he finds out that she’s secretly researching the lives of defense scientists, he forces her to leave. But the questions won’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).