This is the journey of a Hindu college alumnus and journalist, Shruti Ranjan, whose content, complete life in Delhi is satisfying, until, one day when she finds her live-in boyfriend in bed with her best friend, only to discover that her boyfriend of five years is not even apologetic about it. Nothing to look back to in Delhi, she quits her job as a journalist and moves back home with her parents in Bihar. Heartbroken and forlorn, she agrees to an arranged match that is set up by her parents.
But, her rosy fresh start in a small city and arranged marriage to the District Commissioner of Kishanganj, a small town nestled near Bihar border, is put to a ruthless end, when she is brutally raped by a politically sheltered local goon, Salim Yadav, and his accomplices.
Fighting her case relentlessly, only to find a dead end at every turn, she accepts the proposal of the charismatic leader of the opposition, Sharad Malviya, who offers her, his party’s ticket to the Lok Sabha elections.
This starts her political rise to power.Under the guidance of Sharad Malviya, she rises from a rape victim to a Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP), to a deputy minister under Sharad, the home minister, to the chairperson of National Commission for Women, and finally the chief minister of Bihar, all in a span of just three years.
Being involved at the helm of political affairs, she sacrifices her personal life in the process and her blooming relationship with her husband hits several bumpers.
The book explores the various socio-political problems in the anarchic 1990s through the life experiences of Shruti Ranjan, a former journalist, who is swept by the overwhelming events in her life, that reflect the chaotic political situation in the country during that time.
The theme is highly political, written in a very personal style; Tuhin Sinha has addressed several issues plaguing the nation in the 1990s that have been tackled right at the apex of administration. From gender crimes, to lawlessness, the naxal problem or terrorism, all these issues have been brought up in this book through zoomed-in focus into Shruti’s life. In the process, he has also wonderfully captured the different responses, reactions and roles played by different parties and the media.
The book has many flavours to it. The life of a woman post rape is intensely portrayed; the reaction it elicits from the family of the victim, from her spouse, and from the society is intimately illustrated. Tuhin Sinha brilliantly weaves, what would otherwise have been a very political column, to the life story of a former journalist, wife of an IAS officer, rape victim, and politician.
He has compared Shruti to Draupadi, from the colossal epic on India- Mahabharata, whose life and insult, triggered a huge war within a family and ultimately decided the fate of a nation. This novel is the contemporary parallel, where many a times, and by more than one character, Shruti has been compared to Draupadi, and she ascribes Sharad to Krishna, who was the mentor, protector and saviour of Draupadi. Here, Sharad pulls her up from the wells of humiliation, and directs her rise to power. This irregular relationship between the mentor and his protégée reveals various shades to it, during the course of the novel.
One might think that this book is a typical Sidney Sheldon novel put to an Indian context, but do not be deceived.
This is not your average journey of a woman, who is a hapless prey to circumstances beyond her control, and then rises above them to reign and exude power. Shruti is naïve and inexperienced, who tests the dark waters of politics. This book is just the start of the phenomenon called Shruti Ranjan.
Shruti is like a sponge; she absorbs and learns from whatever life has to offer.She is swept by the tides to the apex of power, experiencing both highs and lows on the way.
Though she is not alone in her struggle, she always has a cushion to fall back on, whether it is her husband, who sailed the boat with her in her battle for justice, or Sharad Malviya, under whose protective shadow, she rises to attain her liberty and empowerment.
Yet, there is a lingering absence of a firm rock in her life; it appears that nothing is constant. None of her relationships stands the test of time.
The irony of the whole book is that, the one time that Shruti has absolute power to plan her actions, she is thrown into a situation that she has no control over.
The book definitely does not give the conventional happy ending that we all are accustomed to. However, it does end on a note of promise and hope, and we would surely want Tuhin Sinha to carry the legacy forward.