KALYUG – A review
How about a benevolent dictatorship in India? Or is that an oxymoron? The fast paced page turner by Selvam, sorry, R Sreeram, Kalyug, published by Westland Ltd, tackles this question.
The story is set in current day India, where an author called Selvam has written just such a book, the story of a coup in current day India, thus giving rise to controversy, notoriety, and political vendetta. Wonder if this is wishful thinking by the author? Anyway, the story develops two years after the publication of the fictional book on the same subject, when a coup occurs and the discredited author is invited to witness firsthand the coup he had predicted firsthand. Could this be some more wishful thinking?
The country is governed by a rubberstamp Prime Minister and his very corrupt coalition government, riddled with scams and scandals, controlled by an iron woman called Mrs Pandit, who is the party chief and actual source of all power. Doesn’t this ring a bell somewhere? There is more to come. The ruling party came to power with overwhelming majority when the then Prime Minister, a scion of the ruling family of the country, dies suddenly while on national television creating a huge sympathy wave for the family. The lame duck PM is keeping the seat warm for an incompetent crown prince called Jojo. The President is an erstwhile politically ambitious party man who has been kicked upstairs to eliminate competition for Jojo but is subservient to Mrs Pandit. All this seems strangely familiar somehow, doesn’t it? The opposition is equally venal and disunited, together only to loot the polity. The forces of Law and Order, the Judiciary and the Media, the so called guardians of the common man are all part of the system, maintaining status quo and sharing in the spoils. And the whole unholy mess is controlled by an uber rich family controlled business house. In brief, it is an all too familiar scenario.
The flashpoint occurs with the suicide of a much decorated and upright army general, who is hounded, discredited and is forced to make immense personal sacrifice for trying to unveil a scam that leads to death of our soldiers and exposing our defence.
A secret and powerful group of patriotic intelligence, army and security force officers and a few honest government officials and civilians unleash a plan to take over the country and slowly bring back a democracy that actually works, with all the safeguards necessary to make it workable.
The venal business conglomerate, the CIA, the ousted politicians, the ISI, terrorist groups, all jump into the fray to prevent this loss to their partisan interests, and a violent racy cat and mouse game begins. Selvam has a ringside view, or does he? He is ambiguous about the morality of overthrowing democracy, even temporarily, and is a reluctant member of the party. The love interest is a pretty young journalist who had been gagged earlier when trying to expose the defence scam, now revived by the coup masters.
The structure is that of the classic American thriller, jumping from scene to scene and moving back and forth in time, building up suspense, throwing in action and gore, and it works. I read it practically at a sitting.
The end is classic too, with the action packed climax, a surprise twist, some mysteries explained, and a little left unresolved, perhaps leaving room for a sequel?