“Between the Assassinations” by Aravind Adiga

Between Assassinations- Aravind Adiga

The moment you notice title ‘Between the Assassinations’ and the author as ‘Aravind Adiga’ on a bookshelf, you are most likely to pick that book. And, then as you flip through its inside front cover or the back cover to glance at what the book is all about, you are going to give it a go for the reading.

The teaser page has tourist promo of Kittur, a fictional village located somewhere between Goa and Calicut on the coast of South India. The place is considered worth visiting for seven days.

That gives the structure to the book’s cartographer like precision – “the arches of the railway station frame your first view of Kittur as you arrive as a passenger on the Madras Mail” – and a novelist’s humanity – “The problem is here.. there is a beast inside us”- through the chronologically arranged stories of important landmarks in the history of locations. History and fiction are so well knit in a realistic manner with first and third person narration, providing vintage view to the ‘everyman’ society of an ‘everytown’ Kittur, between the two great assassinations on 31 October 1984 and 21 May 1991. The seven years in between these tragedies are punctuated by several other fictionalized events in the stories narrated.

Stories in the collection are of diverse nature, having protagonists, portraying various shades of characters in our multicultural, ethnic and religious ambience. Adiga’s great theme is power relations—between rich and poor, master and servant, high caste and low caste, majority and minority, corrupt bureaucracy and hard-working citizens —and, the obvious tensions such relationships cause.

The stories could have have been no more than a series of serious-minded tableaux about poverty and disenfranchisement, worthy like a Booker-winner, but not all that enjoyable to read. But by using the earthy native flavor of the language, Adiga has ensured that the stories retain the subtleties of the day-to-day ground realities of a typical Indian town.

Here are a few examples:

“Taking the glasses one at a time to the tables, he delighted the roughman who came to the teashop, by interrupting their conversation with shouts of ‘One-a! Two-a! Three-a!’ while slamming the glasses down in front of them.” {“DAY ONE: THE TRAIN STATION”}

“He bent his head low, rolled his spittle into a ball and prepared to drop it into one of his glasses… He sucked in the spittle. Unzipping his cotton trousers in three gestures, he let them slide down. Bundling the first two fingers of his right hand together, he stuck them deep into his butt; he brought two fingers out, dipped them into one of the glasses of whiskey, and stirred vigorously.” {“DAY TWO: THE BUNDER”}

“For many years this educational institution had spoken to him – spoken rudely; teachers had caned him, headmaster had suspended and threatened to expel him..” {“DAY TWO (CONTINUED) OUR SCHOOL”}

“He spoke of other things that made his head boil. Once, India had been ruled by three foreigners: England, France and Portugal. Now their place has been taken by three native-born thugs: Betrayal, Bungling and Backstabbing.” {“DAY TWO (EVENING): LIGHTHOUSE HILL (THE BASE OF THE HILL”}

“The man and boy got off the bus together. He stood on the main road and waited, while the boy blew his nose and shook off phlegm to the ground.. “ {“DAY SIX: THE SULTAN’S BATTERY”}

And what the protagonists have in common outside of Kittur is a rage both devastatingly funny and heart-breakingly human makes the book well worth a read.

Here are some other interesting reviews published when the book was originally published:

And, one can read more on Araving Adiga on his own site @ http://www.aravindadiga.com/ .  The site does seem to be maintained and updated, hence does not seem to contain his more recent works or articles.

[Between the Assassinations ǁ Author: Aravind Adiga ǁ Publisher   Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd. – www.panmacmillan.com ǁ 2008 ǁ ISBN 978 – 0 – 330 – 45054 – 6]

8 Replies to ““Between the Assassinations” by Aravind Adiga”

    1. Beauty is that you still find such waiters, such road-side restaurants and such rougmen [too] when you travel on the roads that are decidedly away from the ‘plastic’ sophisticated maaners of the modern(!) world!

  1. This seems to be a very interesting book indeed. And the review is excellent. One gets a full flavour of the book. In creating Kittur, Adiga seems to have followed RK Narayan. By the way, there is a real Kittur in North Karnataka. It was a kingdom whose queen, I believe, fought against the British. She is still revered in Karnataka and known as Kittur Rani Chennamma. There is even a train by the name Kittur Rani Chennamma Express.

    When Arvind Adiga won the Booker for The White Tiger, I thought this was just a politically motivated award since the last time an Indian won the Booker was then several years ago. I also thought he might be another flash-in-the-pan writer, one among several wannabe English-language writers who have suddenly cropped up in India, mostly writing trash.

    Though I have never read any book by him, my opinion changed when I read an article by him on the Times of India’s op-ed page that compared Raj Kapoor with Charles Dickens. He displayed an easy facility with language and originality of thought that made me enjoy the article. So he is a writer whose works can be looked forward to.

  2. I also read Raj Kapoor article while browsing through his site.
    At first, it would appear that by titling the comparison with Charles Dickens of someone normally tagged with Chaplin, was a ruse to seek attention.
    But as you read article, you do see merit in his arguments.

  3. I would love to read this book and now after reading your wonderful review I must find it. Will write more after reading it. Yes it is true the boys serving in small road side ‘hotels’ are a great site even in north India (or used to be 50 years ago at least.)

    1. I am happy to know that you enjoyed reading my view of the book.
      I hope that you will have far more pleasure in reading the book.
      Yes, since it is so much a caricature of the India around us that we would certainly ‘feel’ the book as we read through. So much so that it hardly seems to matter whether you agree with the view presented by the Author.
      In my view, that is where the author has succeeded a\in his art of story-telling.

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