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We remember Bhimrao Ambedkar as the father of our Constitution and the messiah who worked relentlessly for uplift-ment of Dailts and weaker sections of society. However,  what distinguishes Ambedkar from other Dalit icons is a rare nationalist foresight which he showed at different stages of his career.

Following is an excerpt from my political thriller, The Edge of Desire, released in 2012. Here, Sharad Malviya is a top leader of the ruling party, Shruti his protégé. Their conversation in a layered way brings out Ambedkar’s foresight in taking the most crucial decision of his life, just months before his death in 1956.

  

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Dr Ambedkar presenting the final draft of the Constitution to Dr Rajendra Prasad

 

Sharad was in a ruminative state.

‘Shruti, you know, I have the highest regard for Bhim Rao Ambedkar,’ Sharad philosophized.

I looked at him in surprise, wondering where the reference came from.

‘Throughout his life, Ambedkar fought for the rights of Dalits to get them an equal status in the Hindu society, before he finally converted to Buddhism just months before his death in 1956.’

I still couldn’t gather the connection. Sharad though went on. ‘Ambedkar resisted the option of converting to Islam. Had he converted to Islam and done so twenty years before he finally did, India would have been a different story.’

The smile on Sharad’s countenance, even as he took another sip, said a lot.

‘It’s a sad commentary on Hinduism that many sections of Dalits somehow have come closer to Islam and Christianity. They’ve always been soft targets. Even today, it’s the Dalits who are the prime targets for conversion.’

‘Can’t we bridge this gap?’

‘Well, that’s what our Reservation Policy was meant for, except that it has resulted in subsequent generations being more and more conscious of caste distinctions than they used to. I would say the divide hasn’t been reduced.’

It is indeed interesting that Dalit-Muslim invariably becomes a hyphenated term at the time of elections. A strong Dalit leader is expected to draw Muslim support as well and vice versa.

‘History repeats itself and those who do not learn from their mistakes are only condemned to repeat them,’ said Sharad before ceding a piece of information that stunned me: ‘Today we have several popular Dalit leaders. And some of the intelligence reports that we have suggest that one of them is being wooed to convert.’

‘Oh God! And what implications would that have?’

‘Well, some of the supporters may follow suit,’ Sharad said, adding another piece of vital information. ‘It’s an international conspiracy.’ He sipped in more wine before adding, ‘We have to defeat it. Tampering with the country’s demography will ruin it.’

Sharad was mildly inebriated. But knowing him, nothing could blunt the sharpness of his thoughts.

If Ambedkar were alive today, he would be a disappointed man. His legacy goes way beyond the petty regressive of Mayawati or the kind of petty politicization the country has seen of Rohit Vermula’s suicide.

 

 

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I was in two minds on whether to watch a gangster movie on Republic Day.

A blind man’s retribution for his wife’s murder, drew a better emotional connect in me. But then, my wife who is an avowed SRK fan had already bought the tickets. Besides, I didn’t want to form an opinion without watching the movie. And hence Raees happened.

To be fair, it’s a pacy entertainer that keeps you hooked till the end. And with good acting from Nawaz and SRk and the teasing oomph of Sunny Leone, it has all the ingredients to be a commercial success.

However, what can’t escape the viewer is the astute communal flavoring and unabashed wooing of the minority community which the movie indulges in. And hence, despite a belabored camouflaging act to present the gangster as “secular” and “philanthropic”, it is hard for the film’s messaging to be remain un-impacted.

Let me elucidate my opinion with a few specific instances.

Point is that a movie like Raees, apparently and obviously inspired from the life of notorious real life gangster Abdul Latif, can’t be viewed in isolation of the social context prevalent in Gujarat in those years. The 2002 Gujarat riots did not happen overnight. These riots actually marked the culmination of two decades of communal animosity that had been building up, with the illegal liquor mafia being a prime contributor, along with a small group of politicians.

As such, the role of gangsters like Raees in the build up to 2002 (Godhra and subsequent riots) can’t be wished away. And hence, to glorify the gangster with a film, was an indirect and indeed innovative way of reiterating that the minority community in India is a sufferer.

Secondly, The movie in all its promos and the story itself, hard-sells the dialogue which Raees’ mom tells him, “Koi bhi dhanda chota nahi hota aur dhande se bada koi dharam nahi hota.” Well’s that’s the worst messaging that can come from a parent. An apt message ought to have been simpler, “Jo dhandha gair-kanooni hai, who galat hai” (What’s illegal can never be right).

Raees follows his ammi’s pearl of wisdom, venturing into a life that was doomed from the start. In this case, thus, Raees, was not a victim of state persecution. He was the victim of a flawed advice doled out by his Ammi. Instead of pointing this out, the movie plays out this dialogue ad nauseam, making it virtually appear that it was Gujarat’s ban on alcohol that was responsible for breeding gangsters and making kids go astray.

The movie, thus, adopts the convenient tactic of painting the minority community as the natural losers of a govt’s unfriendly policies.

Towards the end, the film makes a contrived attempt to show Raees as gullible when he is fooled into getting RDX smuggled into the country. It might help readers to know here that the real Abdul Latif was a key accused in smuggling RDX that was used for the 1993 blasts. In fact, there is ample evidence of Latif having spoken to Dawood Ibrahim after 1993 blasts and congratulated him. But then, as the makers of the film would insist, it’s only fiction inspired from facts. What that means is that they can conveniently make it fictitious where the protagonist needs to be absolved of an act of treason.

The last scene of the movie once again shifts from fiction to the fact mode and shows a brazen fake encounter where Raees gets killed. What was the messaging here? That the victim of Indian fake encounters is invariably a Muslim don?

The makers of Raees, much like Raees himself did all his life, manage to get away with a lot of beating around the bush, primarily on strength of some well utilized commercial elements, which make the movie watchable.

But the intent of the makers has subtle mischief written all over it: it is to tell the world that the Muslims are the worst sufferers of unfriendly state policies and that many a times, state policies are designed to disadvantage them. What the movie does not communicate is this: suffering is often by choice, wrong influences and by a willing adoption of the victimhood mindset.

India has seen several changes since 2014; one of the visible ones is a tactical shift in the approach of a certain group of intellectuals. The self proclaimed upholders of secularism went on to form the “anti-intolerance” group. No wonder the director of Parzania had to take recourse in Raees. The goalposts remain the same though!

The Sheen Of An Underbelly

Posted: July 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Edge of Desire

Saaz Aggarwal, a writer and painter who lives in Pune feels that the best thing about ‘The Edge of Desire’ is that though it is written by a man; the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the woman protagonist seem very authentic. Read what else she says about the book.

Not since The White Tiger has a book gripped me in this particular way, engaging me with both its plot and language, and overcoming me with a sinking feeling at the false image so many of us live with of life in India.

The Edge of Desire

What do we know of kala azar, a chronic and potentially fatal parasitic disease transmitted by sand-fly that afflicts thousands in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar? That in India only one of fifty rape cases is reported; that only one of five reported are convicted? That being an illegal migrant is a privilege because it offers certain dubious opportunities to officers of the state administration? That the so-called tribals who support the ‘Naxal’ movement, who are not even aware of modern techniques of agriculture, can somehow handle modern ammunition?

These are some of the issues that this fast-paced and well-written book offers, along with a range of information about India, from the early politics of Kashmir to the qualities of the god Krishna, to our vapid and rather pointless method of celebrating Independence Day.
What I liked best about this book The Edge of Desire is that it is written by a man, and the voice of his heroine – her thoughts, feelings and actions – are so very authentic. Shruti starts off as a journalist and in this book, as she evolves first into a politician and then into a convict, we get to see her suffer deceit in a committed relationship, then rape by a group of strangers, then frustration in what started off as a promising marriage. When finally a complicated situation seems likely to bring her happiness at last – that disintegrates too.
What I did not like was that the quality deteriorated towards the end, starting with an unlikely and clumsily-described event between Shruti and a younger woman, after which it became rather weak and sketchy.

The Edge of Desire

 

Yogmitra Thakrar from Pune a tarot card reader & an aura and chakra healer talks about “The Edge of Desire” being an amazing piece of work. 

I recently read Tuhin Sinha’s ‘The Edge of Desire’ and it is one of the most amazing piece of work I have ever read. I simply loved the characters of Shruti Ranajn and Sharad Malaviya. Loved the part where Shruti had to live on the edge after she gets brutally raped, and the kind of relationship changes, she and her husband Rohit face.

The Edge of Desire

Rohit is also an interesting character, no matter how weak he is. The kind of pressure he goes through after Shruti becomes famous, is so real. I am sure many husbands would be going through the same once their respective wives become famous.

  The character of Sharad is simply mind-blowing with his own charm. He is a very strong character with his own past demons to fight with. The kind of chemistry that Tuhin has shown between him and Shruti is simply amazing, especially when Shruti goes to his place to stay.

 The relationship between Sharad’s daughter and Shruti has been shown beautifully. From the kind of hostility that they share to the bonding between them, their journey has been shown beautifully.

 In all, ‘The Edge of Desire’ is a must read for all and sundry.

The Edge of Desire

Reshma Kulkarni, who reviews ‘The Edge of Desire’ for The Hindu; thinks it is worth a read to understand the quirks of fate, the machinations of politics, and the possible repercussions when they both combine to take charge of an individual’s life. 

This is the story of how a woman’s humiliation changes her life taking her from ignominy to the highest glory but not without extracting a pound of flesh. Shruti Ranjan, a journalist pays for her husband’s sincerity at work by getting brutally raped by a local goon. The doors of justice don’t open for her and, to add to her trouble, she is ostracised by her relatives.

Helping hand

But Shruti finds an unlikely helping hand in Sharad Malviya, an astute politician who gets her to contest the Lok Sabha elections on his party ticket. Shruti’s life goes on a never-imagined curve with Sharad standing by her throughout; even helping nail her rapist Salim Yadav by getting his mother to testify about Salim’s lifelong brutalities. Shruti wins the election and Sharad becomes the Home Minister. With a powerful companion by her side, Shruti’s political star rises; she even becomes chief minister of Bihar.

On the other hand, Shruti’s relationship with her husband (an IAS officer) breaks down irretrievably. She is burdened by the guilt of seeing her supportive husband break down under personal and professional pressures stemming from her rape and political ascent. However, there is little she can do about it; as she is battling increasing professional demands and snide remarks about her ‘relationship’ with Malviya.

Pegged as a story that seeks to give voice to gender crimes as well as absence of an able-bodied leadership in the country, The Edge of Desire leans heavily towards the latter. Sinha’s engagement with political issues is clear through various instances depicted as part of Shruti and Malviya’s political careers. The backdrop of Mahabharata forms a subtext to the narrative. Luckily Sinha refrains from painting the relationship between Malviya and his protégé in a clichéd romantic format; the many layers to the Krishna-Draupadi relationship that he accords to them remain unexplored.

The Edge of Desire

Too cramped

However, there seem to be too many issues crammed into one plot. In his enthusiasm about and deep knowledge of political affairs, Sinha seems to have gone overboard by cramming everything from Naxal movements to the Kashmir question to internal problems in political hierarchies to increasingly common occurrences such as abductions and copter crashes into one story. A little pruning would have helped. Also, the insertion of Shruti’s love interest Abhay or Rohit’s second wife Shamlee, seem unnecessary especially because these characters do not have much of a role in the protagonist’s life except for adding to her personal trauma.

Still The Edge of Desire is worth at least one read to understand the quirks of fate, the machinations of politics and what a combustible combination the two can make.

The Edge of Desire

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.

The Edge of Desire

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.

The Edge of Desire

Tasha Tyagi who is a second year media trainee, a big foodie and an avid reader, talks about how ‘The Edge of Desire” is based on a lot of research and gives its readers a chance to look deeply into what really happens in the government through the medium of politics and how it vents to a variety of emotions…

In the lawless Bihar of the 1990s, a pregnant woman is raped barbarously, and yet again, justice is not delivered. Tuhin Sinha’s latest novel—The Edge of Desire—accentuates the vices that prevail in the Indian government and the extent to which Indian politics and legal systems can be manipulated and altered.

The Edge of Desire

Haunted by memories of her boyfriend’s infidelity, Shruti Ranjan, an ex-journalist in Delhi, is forced to move back to her hometown, Patna. After brushing aside any marriage plans for a long time, she eventually gives her assent to marry the Deputy Commissioner of Kishanganj, which, unfortunately, is a town that is monopolised by the local ruffians. As Shruti is beginning to get accustomed to her new life in Kishanganj, things take a drastic turn when she is brutally raped by these local goons and their leader, Salim Yadav. All her attempts at procuring justice are thwarted over and over again until she puts her foot down and sets herself on a journey she never imagined.

The book is based on a lot of research and gives its readers a chance to look deeply into what really happens in the government through the medium of politics. Although the book gives vent to a variety of emotions, the characters still seem to lack depth in a lot of places, making it hard for the reader to come to terms with the protagonist’s experiences. The author often gets carried away, highlighting events that do not quite fit into the plot. The character of Rohit (Shruti’s husband) is rather interesting: he is someone who constantly manages to retain his narrow-mindedness and insensitivity towards the issues at hand. One very important, powerful character is that of Sharad Malviya, who supports Shruti throughout her struggle.

Unflatteringly, the highly dramatic, filmi ending fails to do justice to the title of the book. In the first half, the content raises the reader’s expectations in a gradual yet interesting manner. However, the second half is rather slow and disappointing. What keeps the reader going is the protagonist’s constant battle with herself to be able to decide either in favour of her marriage or her ambition. The plot is not as powerful as one might anticipate from the back cover. Nevertheless, the amount of research that went into the making of this book is truly commendable, and makes it worth reading.

The Edge of Desire

Sudeshna Koka talks about how ‘The Edge of Desire’ demo­nstrates the pain, sadness, ang­er, frustration, betrayal a wom­an goes through before she realizes the immense strength and power she possesses.

Can a woman’s humiliation change the destiny of a nation? It did in the Ma­habharata. And it does, once again, in the lawless Bihar of the 1990s. The Edge of Desire is a very feministic book by Tuhin A Sinha, who talks about the life of an ex-journalist Shruti Ranjan, who finds her boyfriend in bed with her best friend. Hurt at being deceived, she moves back to her hometown with her parents. Giving into parental pressure, she agrees for an arranged marriage with Rohit Verma, the deputy commissioner of Kishanganj, Bihar. Little did she know that this marriage would change the course of her life giving it a completely new direction.

While she is just trying to find her bearings with marriage, a horrific incident puts all stops to her dreams. She is brutally raped by a local goon, Salim Yada. She decides to fight back but her attempts at getting justice are crushed by a corrupt and complicit state government. That’s when the charismatic Sharad Malviya, a leading member of the opposition party, offers her an unlikely solution: his party’s ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections. The Edge of Desire

While fighting for personal justice, she becomes a deputy minister working for women welfare. Soon she becomes the CM and handles bigger issues like Naxalism, terrorism and the country’s security issues. She goes through several role reversals. However, in this battle she loses her family. Her husband, Rohit, who was once her support system, abandons her — leaving her to fight alone.The novel is a great blend of politics and human emotions. Each character is brilliantly carved and this comes only with intricate research. This is where Tuhin scores over others. His writing is clean and well-plotted.

The Edge of Desire shows the different challenges a women faces in our country. It demonstrates the pain, sadness, anger, frustration, betrayal a women goes through due to constant commodification and discrimination. However, the author who constantly keeps drawing reference to mythological characters also shows that a woman can fight and stand against all odd. And indeed when a woman stands up for herself, she realises the immense strength and hidden power she possesses.

The Edge of Desire

Sarita Thakore, who currently works at the Centre for Environment Education, and is engaged in education and communication towards sustainable development; says The Edge of Desire is proof that print enables imagination and can make a person really relate to the book and its characters.

The title aptly suits the portrayal of the lead character, Shruti Ranjan. It is said that print enables imagination. The same happens when you read this novel. The writing brings out the deeper feelings of a woman, and the inner turmoil that she goes through. While she is not too ambitious about her career and becoming a politician is probably the last thing on her mind; once she gets embroiled into politics, she realizes both, its power and its cost. Her nature of not being in denial about the circumstances she finds herself in, and accepting the consequences to face them bravely, makes her character powerful.

Nowhere does the author say that Shruti is a powerful woman, yet the fact that her journey is rife with pain and she has no option but to grow, informs the reader about her path of self realization and the grit and strength with which she walks on it. Throughout the novel, she remains sensitive to the needs of her family and at the same time she also remains sensitive to her own needs; that is something every woman should learn and practice.

The Edge of Desire

The human weaknesses and vulnerabilities have also been depicted gracefully by the author. Shruti not only realizes her own weaknesses, but is also capable enough to understand the weaknesses of those close to her. Without offending anyone, she chooses to work upon her weaknesses and this makes her character a very graceful and relatable one.

While reading, it feels like these instances are happening in day to day life, and Tuhin has effectively weaved words to make the novel seem like a real-life case that the reader immediately feels connected to.

The appropriate end of the novel—Shruti and Rhea realizing each others’needs and strengths; and coming together to make it clear that the journey goes on.

To students of the Gender Studies course…this is a book you ought not to miss! Read it and you will surely not be at a loss!

 K Ananthakrishnan talks about how “The Edge of Desire” has managed to deliver that it is not only a fictionally an interesting read but also serves as an account that serves as a testimony that represents the state of present day women.

The evolution of womanhood has been, to say the least, tumultuous. Many accounts deal with this subject – The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir, The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer are the ones that spring to mind. From mythological times to contemporary society, from the times when women were deified as gods to times when they were treated as slaves, from times when they played a sacred role in society to times when the ascendancy of patrimony left them clinging to the lower rung of society, women have always had to battle to assert their equanimity. The dedication in Tuhin Sinha’s The Edge of Desire –  ” to every woman who has been a victim of gender crimes in this country that deifies umpteen goddesses ” – makes it abundantly clear as to the leaning of this book.

The Edge of Desire

 A quick summary of the plot – Shruti Ranjan is a journalist in Delhi, leading the typical modernist life, a 5 year long live-in relationship with her boyfriend Abhay. Abhay then does the quintessential male thing – he gets caught in bed with Shruti’s best friend. Shaken and stirred, Shruti leaves Delhi to live with her parents. Excessive pressure from her parents to get married sees Shruti eventually succumb and get wedded to Rohit, the Deputy Commissioner of Kishanganj, Bihar. The marriage is a little strained at first but the couple slowly find their feet and things seem to be settling down with Shruti getting pregnant when life goes downhill when she is brutally raped. The rapist being politically sheltered, Shruti’s valiant attempts at justice is all in vain leaving her totally disillusioned and desultory. It is in this state of despair that Shruti is given a chance to avenge the crime – she is offered a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections, the deal brokered by the charismatic Sharad Malviya, the Opposition leader. What started out as a ploy to extract revenge ends up with Shruti being plummeted deep into the dark world of politics – new relationships form while old ones strain further, conspiracies abound and it all culminates into a decent climax.

Enough said about the story this book does have its strengths. For starters, Tuhin’s writing style is impressive. Terse and succinct, the language employed here is simple and to the point making way for a fast paced narrative – this one is to be devoured in one straight sitting. The characters etched are strong and quite believable – they play out well enough for the author to evoke a love-hate relationship between some of its characters and the reader, a point in favour of Tuhin. The relationship between Shruti and Rohit is etched well – the initial misgivings of marriage slowly steadying into an understanding that is then ripped apart by the rape. Things go more astray when Shruti’s path to justice takes her further and further away from her marriage right up to the point of no return. The rich backdrop of politics is also well used – multi faceted personalities each with their own axe to grind, multiple players conspiring against one another and all of this to be faced by Shruti, a novice in this murky world. The politics scene and issues being portrayed in the story is in fact a reflection of the contemporary India – issues that are relevant and prevalent today form the sub plots that help our tyro politician further her career. Peppered here and there in the novel are refreshing ruminations involving history and mythology – a nice touch that adds a certain authenticity to the turmoil being envisaged and presented.

Something that was always at the back of my mind while reading was that the voice of the protagonist is female (in the book) though it is being voiced by a male author. Is it ironical that a book with such a strong feminist inclination is actually penned by a male – I don’t think that does have any bearing really but it is of a nice note. The journey that is The Edge of Desire is not without its share of falls albeit minute – the meteoric rise of Shruti’s political career almost makes this a fantasy story, sometimes the plot unravels like a cliched Bollywood drama (is it possible to mean this in a good way ??!!, I think not!!) but the one that was primarily stuck in my head was Shruti herself. The portrayal sometimes was quite contradictory – at times she comes across as the strong, feminine character that she is supposed to be, intrepid and inspiring but at other times she is left so wallowing in self-doubt that it is pretty difficult to relate the two to one single character. Mind you these are typical ‘reviewer bellyaches’ – they do not detract you from the riveting plot that this book is.

In Edge of Desire, author Tuhin Sinha has managed to deliver a book that is not only fictionally an interesting read but also serves as an account that serves as a testimony that represents the state of present day women. It is a book that does not fear from delving deep into the cloudy and dark edges of not only politics but also relationships that are contained therein. A certainly deserving read, the Edge of Desire does leave a strong after taste in the reader – now that smacks of a well crafted novel.