“Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” ― Stephen King
There are times when we all feel hopeless. And in the absence of hope, sometimes that void gets filled by hate. Hate is an equally powerful emotion. While hope is all that is optimistic, hate is darkness itself and in that darkness, no reason can be found. The Assassinations – A Novel of 1984 deals with a time in India’s history that may have been pushed to the background, but never forgotten. A time when hate was at the forefront.
I was a child in 1991. While at my grandfather’s place during summer vacation, sometime after I was in bed the phone rang. Late night phone calls are generally considered inauspicious. The phone call was to pass on the information that the Prime Minister of India was assassinated. We were away in Kerala while my father was in Chennai. My mother spent the night worrying until father called to inform he was safe. If you are wondering why this unrelated anecdote, then let me tell you those emotions at the time (even the ones that I was too young to understand) Vikram Kapur has managed to bring to life in his book. When I read the passage about a family waiting for news about one of their own, it brought back this memory of mine. Good writing often makes things personal for us.
Vikram Kapur’s The Assassinations – A Novel of 1984 is about the chaos unleashed by Operation Blue Star and the subsequent assassination of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. Whenever there is an event of that magnitude, a lot is written about – articles, research, fiction and non-fiction. Those with inside information will weave it into their biographies. The Assassinations – A Novel of 1984 falls under fiction, but I would not strictly categorise it so. There are instances when you feel that perhaps the author has experienced the discriminating acrimony of hate.
The book portrays the journey of two families – a Sikh and a Hindu family. They come together because of love and are ripped apart because of hate. Dr Amarjeet Kohli’s son, Prem, falls in love with Deepa, a Hindu. With both Amarjeet’s, Jaswant’s (Deepa’s father) and their families blessings, they get engaged. A period of happiness for Prem and Deepa. That is when Operation Blue Star happens. For someone who wore his hair short and was clean shaven, Blue Star became a turning point in Prem’s life. He begins visiting a gurudwara and growing out his beard and hair.
Indira Gandhi’s assassination becomes another turning point in all of their lives. After news of the assassination, riots break out and Sikhs of all ages and gender are targeted. Neighbours and friends turn against each other. Prem is caught up in the riots, beaten and left to die. Without news of Prem’s whereabouts, both his and Deepa’s families are wrought with worry. Prem’s friend rescues him and he survives.
But as with everyone after a traumatic experience, there are scars. The rest of the book details the aftermath of this incident. Where dreams of the future are shattered, and the lives of loved ones are lost. Those that are left behind have to bear with the consequences and question their very existence. The book ends with the stories of Deepa’s brother, Rakesh, and Prem’s sister Seema, twenty years later – how their lives have changed since and how they have survived. It does end on an optimistic note, or so I’d like to hope.
Vikram Kapur’s writing is very empathetic and manages to strike a chord with the reader. Be it romance or strife; fear or hope; hopelessness or anger – the writing of it makes the emotion relatable. Kapur’s The Assassinations – A Novel of 1984 is a quick read. It is quite engrossing and you are hooked on to the plot without having to skip a few pages. If the first few pages seem slow to you, fret not because the rest of the book is paced well and can keep the reader engaged. Definitely recommend!
Author(s): Vikram Kapur
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publication
Release: November 2017
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