New Delhi: A conversation between Tarun Tejpal and Hari Kunzru of the Impressionist and My Revolutions fame, marked the launch of Tejpal’s second book, The Story of My Assassins, at the British Council on Monday evening.
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Kunzru, an Indian author based in London conducted a discerning discussion with Tejpal that provided a seductive glimpse into the mind of the pony-tailed author.
Using a cynical and deeply unpleasant character who discovers a plot that was made to assassinate him, Tejpal dives into the social complexities of India. As Kunzru puts it, “There are no mustachioed villains that come to light, but biographies of the assassins who are very real people.” Tejpal reinforces the underlying idea of the book, “The lives of the assassins are no less worthy than the one who is to be assassinated.”
What began as a light-hearted conversation about the book, about Tejpal’s literary style and his love of fiction, gradually turns to a telling observation about everyday life in India. “I live in New Delhi, and my day and night are consumed by Tehelka. I live in the belly of the beast,” said Tejpal. “We give this Gandhi googly of being a non-violent people. Look around; our country is ridden with caste, race, gender, and religious violence. And then we make the assumption that we are a non violent people,” was Tejpal’s sharp comment.
When asked about Tehelka’s rub off on the book, Tejpal was quick to respond, “The past 8-9 years have been like a journey into the heart of power. Political power is the true engine of this country, and understanding the nature of that power is vital to understanding modern India. The book, in very literary ways brings out just that.”
Tejpal went on to comment on India’s new image as the flourishing economy and if India is shining at all. “They are not the entire truth about India. We need to fix the politics, which in turn will fix the economy. We need political and corporate leadership. Somewhere down the line we are letting down the nationalist, community-based or social agenda we started out with. There’s a difference between elite India and the masses’ India. Behind this boomtown is a vast hinterland of deprivation.”
Published by HarperCollins, The Story of my Assassins promises an intuitive read into precisely that thought.
Tejpal’s second book, after the much acclaimed The Alchemy of Desire, was launched as part of the British Council’s new literature programme, India ’09: Through Fresh Eyes, that aims to highlight the India Market Focus at London Book Fair 2009. The British Council is taking 40 Indian writers to London in April 2009 to be part of seminars at the world’s premier publishing trade and rights events and other venues in the UK. As part of the cultural exchange, a number of writers from UK will also be presented in India in the coming months.
Video by Taneesha Kulshrestha