THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Establishing a dictatorship in a democracy like India might lead to a civil war. However, R Sreeram, argues through his debut novel ‘Kalyug’ feels that a bloodless coup is possible.
Born in Thiruvananthapuram, Sreeram derives his conviction from 1975, the year Emergency was declared. Over the years, Emergency was still a topic of tea-time conversations as he grew up in the capital city.
The novel mentions late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and former President A P J Abdul Kalam. Moreover, some of the characters in ‘Kalyug’, set in 2012, have familiar figures which dominate today’s political scene.
The author deliberately smudges the line between reality and fiction. According to Sreeram: ‘’I was a little concerned, on portraying in the book about arrests made even on Facebook posts. However the plot is an individual story by itself. Also, when the agent and the publishers read the book, the parallels in charecter did not matter much. For the magnitude of the events eclipse the characters.’’
The novel’s protagonist is a novelist whose debut book ‘India 2012’ is pulled off the shelves and destroyed just because it talks about an imaginary coup in India. ‘India 2012’ sounds like ‘Kalyug’ musing about itself.
Asked whether he was worried that the fate of ‘Kalyug’ would have the same fate of ‘India 2012’? he replied: ‘’I introduced it to safeguard ‘Kalyug’ against such a plight. There is a famous quote which we often wrongly attribute to Voltaire which says ‘ I do not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. In our country it would be, ‘ I do not agree with what you say and I will make sure you are not heard.’
In order to validate his plot, Sreeram did thorough research. He said he had to depend on internet and scoured news articles related to Emergency.
‘’There were stories about unsung heroes and conspiracy theories. About how the US knew about Emergency before it was declared and tried in vain to prevent Indira Gandhi from declaring it,’’ says Sreeram. He says that there are stories about the corrupting influence of power.
Asked on whom he drew influence, Sreeram replied:
‘’My friends have found the style to resemble Forsyth and Ludlum. However from my side, I have made a conscious attempt to not fall into a recognisable style. Because, years ago, I had started writing a novel. I had to leave it unfinished after writing 17 chapters. So for Kalyug, I spent time thinking about characters and dialogues,’’ says Sreeram.
‘Kalyug’ is fast-paced book. Be it the politician who ‘’flopped a hand weakly to his forehead’’ to salute, or the US secret agents who are called ‘’Taller’’ and ‘’Shorter’’, there are several caricatures in the book.
Another factor that keeps it from sprinting like thrillers do is its non-linear timeline. One needs to bear with the author for a few pages, but will get used to datelines and settings shifting back and forth. ‘’I have addressed the problem with the timeline in the sequel ‘Chakravyuh’,’’ says Sreeram.