Rachna Chhabria who loves to connect with other writers and discuss books, talks about Tuhin Sinha’s latest book ‘The Edge of Desire’ and wonders if the open ending has a sequel in the offing.
I picked up the novel, The Edge of Desire, written by Tuhin A Sinha, without much expectation as this was my first brush with Tuhin’s writing. What intrigued me was the title. The book did not disappoint me. It’s a fast paced novel; a gritty political thriller: the story of journalist Shruti Ranjan who is sucked into the whirlpool of Indian politics by default. Disappointed in love when her relationship with her live-in boyfriend Abhay breaks up, Shruti opts for an arranged marriage with Rohit Verma, the Deputy Commissioner of Kishanganj, Bihar.
In Kishanganj she not only becomes familiar with the politics-goon nexus, she also experiences it first hand when she is brutally gang raped by the local goon Salim Yadav. Justice is denied to her as Salim Yadav enjoys political patronage which shields him from the law and gives him unending clout over the common people. After being constantly stone- walled and undergoing humiliating character assassination that many rape victims go through in their quest for justice, Shruti grabs the life- line of a party ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections offered by the charishmatic leader of the opposition party, the up and coming politician Sharad Malviya.
Within months she is sucked into the political cesspool; first she becomes a MP, then a deputy minister working for women welfare and finally she becomes the CM of Bihar who has to handle bigger issues like Naxalism and terrorism to name a few. Bihar’s lawlessness in the 1990’s is depicted through various issues that are incorporated seamlessly into the plotline. Shruti’s ascent into politics sees her marriage faltering at the altar of insecurity and jealousy experienced by her husband. The Edge of Desire is much more than the story of a rape victim fighting for justice. It is also the journey of a woman who will not tolerate injustice, it’s also about the indomitable spirit of women. The constant comparision of Shruti and her relationship with her political mentor Sharad Malviya, to that of Lord Krishna and Draupadi, elevate the mentor–protégé relationship to a sublime level. I could feel their deep fascination for each other, their concern for each other. I wish that angle should have been explored further. Devoid of heavy prose and descriptions that would have slowed the story, Tuhin plunges headlong into Shruti’s life, showing glimpses of her pain and trauma that will resonate with many women.
Though a feminist tale, at its center are three men who are instrumental in making Shruti the woman she becomes. Of the three men in Shruti’s life, Abhay, her live-in lover, Rohit, her insecure and suspicious husband and Sharad, her political mentor, the first two come across as weak spirited men who are unable to digest the fact that a women can achieve things in life without compromising on her integrity and character. Shruti had no expectations from Sharad, yet it’s Sharad who comes to her rescue time and again. Perhaps that is what the author wanted to depict; that support comes from unexpected quarters.
The book also highlights that life for someone in the public eye, especially a woman in politics is not all rosy and picture post-card perfect. Shruti has as many inner demons to fight as the external ones thrown by the media and her political opponents. The open ending makes me wonder if there is a sequel in the offing.