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A story of tumultuous times

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Purabi Panwar   |   Published 14.11.14, 12:00 AM


A Hundred lives for you By Abhisar Sharma, Srishti, Rs 195


The large-scale violence and killings that followed Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984 was a nightmarish experience, especially for those living in Delhi. It found a literary expression, albeit an oblique one in Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines. This reviewer is not aware if other fiction writers have taken it up in their works, in English or in other regional languages.


A Hundred Lives for You by Abhisar Sharma recreates the entire traumatic period, bringing out vividly the ways in which it changed lives, relationships and so many other things in the lives of the people who were affected. It is the story of Abhimanyu Sharma, the protagonist of the novel, and his struggles to live life on his own terms. He does not want to study at IIT Delhi in spite of having got admission there. He opts for a pure science course and freelances for the print media, before taking it up full time. Apart from his grandfather no one supports him.


October 31, 1984 and the subsequent violence that rocks the country are great turning points in his life. It would be unfair to reveal all the details. It would be better to let the reader enjoy the book and respond to it in his/her own way.


What makes the novel interesting is the quick and unexpected turn of events, which often leave the reader gasping. It is a chronicle of a very tumultuous period in the history of modern India, a period that brought out the seamy side of politics and created a sharp divide between communities that persists even today. The author must have been very young at that time, so one need not hasten to look for autobiographical parallels. Instead, one gives him credit for the thorough research he must have done on the period, in order to depict it in all its horror. When this reviewer read the scenes describing mob frenzy, cleverly orchestrated by politicians with vested interests, one remembered those days when the air rang with vindictive slogans of rioters and piteous cries of those who were being set on fire or killed in some other gruesome ways.


Abhimanyu Sharma's act of revenge, that takes off a little later, is meticulously planned and ruthless. It unleashes a lot of violence and though the journalist manages to take revenge on someone he knew had been guilty of perpetrating large-scale violence in 1984, the violence that follows scars a number of persons close to him. His mother's agonized words, 'It was sheer recklessness that you crushed your father's dream, which was your misplaced idea of revenge and now you brought this on Simran...' make him realize that violence cannot be conquered by violence, at which point his adopted daughter, Simran, shows resilience and emerges as a powerful person who can take care of her Babu, as she calls Abhimanyu. The novel ends on a positive note and seems to send out the message that human relationships prevail over all the negativities that come our way and often make us react in a reckless manner.


While this reviewer enjoyed reading A Hundred Lives for You, there are a few things one cannot help commenting on. The character called Shweta, her dramatic entries and exits, not to mention her erotic scenes with Abhimanyu contribute little to the novel. This can be said especially about her second entry in the book, the stormy love-making scene that has an air of desperation about it but is not really in sync with the rest of the novel. If it had been a Bollywood film she would have been some sort of an item girl, but a good novel does not need such characters. Her role could have been trimmed. After reading the novel one feels that the story is told well but most of the characters are rather flat, rather stereotypical - the orphaned Sikh girl who faces an identity crisis from time to time till the final knock matures her, the unscrupulous politician who is determined to make it big, no matter at what cost, and so on. The only person who strikes a chord in the reader's heart in spite of his recklessness and calculated approach to take revenge on the politician, is Abhimanyu Sharma. He towers over others and the reader relates to him though he/she might not approve of everything that Abhimanyu says or does.


This reviewer has not read the earlier novels of Abhisar Sharma. However, after reading A Hundred Lives for You, one feels that he has considerable creative potential and his journalistic experience helps him to give it a strong visual dimension. That, along with the authenticity of facts, gives his work a credibility to the extent that one wonders if it is based on the experiences of the author or someone close to him.

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