The Assassination- A novel of 1984
Author: Vikram Kapur
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Genre: Literary Fiction
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
To Deepa, Prem gave no hint of the churning inside him. In front of her he affected a cheery demeanour, indulging her in her plans for their honeymoon, which she kept revising. It was a welcome escape from the mayhem surrounding him. There were occasions where the pretence got to him and a voice rose inside, urging him to tell her everything. He silenced it. Deepa was a Hindu and would never understand.
Until then, he had never thought of her as different.
Prem Kohli, the handsome, ambitious son of a Sikh refugee, has the world at his feet. A glittering career lies ahead, and he has just got engaged to his college girlfriend, Deepa, overcoming her parents’ reservations about Hindus and Sikhs intermarrying. But, while Deepa remains occupied with their marriage plans, the Indian Army enters the Golden Temple. Prem cannot contain his rising anger at the desecration of the shrine and at the people around him who shrug it off as ‘teaching a lesson’ to the Sikhs. He begins growing out his hair and beard, and visiting the gurudwara regularly, where he learns about the militancy in Punjab. Matters come to a head a few months later, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated and anti-Sikh riots break out all over Delhi, as Prem is caught up in a vortex of violence and hate that threatens to engulf all of their lives.
In The Assassinations, Vikram Kapur writes with sensitivity about a topic that still holds painful memories, skilfully telling the story of how ordinary lives are distorted by the forces of history. At the same time, he masterfully evokes the New Delhi of the 1980s, with its wide, leafy roads masking the precariousness of its Punjabi middle class. This memorable book captures the turbulence of those times, while chronicling the ways in which continuing to live means coming to terms with many kinds of deaths.
Operation Bluestar is an important event in the political history of India. Thousands of Sikhs were massacred, innocent people, who died over a mission that was (maybe) a mistake. But other things happened, alongside the cold-blooded murders, events that scarred people. This is one such story.
Deepa and Prem, two people in love, planning their life together. But then Indira Gandhi, the country’s Prime Minister is shot by her own bodyguards. These people who shot her are Sikhs, so is Prem. So when the country’s beloved Prime Minister is murdered, Hindus decide to launch an attack on the entire Sikh community, an attack that is full of hatred.
The Sikhs are humiliated on the streets, their hairs cut off, beaten and burned to death. All of these events start boring a hole into Prem’s mind because innocent people are being targetted. But he can never talk to Deepa about it, she is a Hindu, she won’t understand. As the story progresses, we see a cruel, merciless world, fighting in the name of religion.
What I loved about the book was the amount of information provided. It was measured and put together quite nicely. The book tends to leave an impact and make you ponder over what humanity has turned into. It’s fast-paced, with interesting turns. In books like these, the ending gets tricky, but the author has tried to give it a bittersweet ending, which is hopeful and a bit sad at the same time.
- A lovely couple, a country in turmoil and scared people
- Love and hatred, a lot of it
- Violence, terrible stuff people do, without logic
- A government who doesn’t care about the consequences of their actions
The book is centered around New Delhi and how an event like this didn’t spare even the elite. The author has focussed on the tiny details, that makes the narratives much more vivid and dramatic. The characters develop into complex beings, each step becoming more and more unpredictable.
Overall, this book is full of insights about a day, right at the country’s glorious capital, when humanity lost its meaning, again. A day where a lot of people were left scarred for life, families were destroyed and no one lifted a finger, right at the center of power.
Another book, if you wanna know about India and it’s political scenario during Indira Gandhi’s times.