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Between the Assassinations


In Between the Assassinations, Aravind Adiga has imagined the small Indian city of Kittur, an everytown nestling on the coast south of Goa and north of Calicut. Through the myriad and distinctive voices of its inhabitants, an entire Indian world comes vividly to life. Kittur presents a microcosm of Indian life in the 80’s, the years between the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv. Muslim, Christian and Hindu, high-caste and low-caste, rich and poor: all of life – the ‘sorrowful parade of humanity’ – is here.

Journeying through Kittur’s streets and schoolyards, bedrooms and businesses, its inner workings and outer limits, the book begins every new story with an image of the fictional landscape, the Bunder with its prawn curry and rice, the lighthouse hill, the Nehru Maidan, Angel Talkies Cinema, the history, the language, the demographics of Kittur, the Salt Market Village etc. 

  • Ziauddin, a village boy who found work in a tea shop and then employed by a Muslim man, Pathan, as a porter at the train station who instructed Ziauddin to count how many trains that carries truck load of Indian army every day.
  • Abbasi, an owner of textile factory who constantly receive extortion to pay corruption to the State Electricity Board and the Income Tax Authority. Until one day he decided to stood up to them.
  • The authority defying ‘Xerox’ Ramakrishna who sells bootleg textbooks and The Satanic Verses despite repeated taut from the authority, to earn a living.
  • Shankara, a student of the St Alfonso’s Boy’s High School, half Brahmin, half low caste Hoyka, planted a home made bomb in Lasrado chemistry class, to mock his chemistry professor (who is mocked in his entire life because of his impaired speech). 

One day he met an old Brahmin who said ‘You must find your own caste,’…. ‘You must find your people.’ Shankara felt sorry for this old Brahmin who has to catch the bus. Shankara is always chauffer driven. Shankara thought: he is of a higher caste than me, but he is poor. What does this thing mean then, caste? Is it just a fable for old men like him? If you just said to yourself, caste is a fiction, would it vanish like smoke if you said, ‘I am free’, would you realise you had always been free? 

  • Mr. D’Mello, an assistant headmaster at St Alfonso’s who invited pet student Girish to his home has high expectation of Girish to be virtuous, intelligent and to succeed. D’Mello was not pleased that Girish is not winning in quiz competitions and was disappointed Girish took a peak of pornographic images at the back alley.
  • Keshava, a destitute old man, who came from rural village and mixed with the wrong crowd. He is promoted to a bus conductor only to meet with a tragic accident.
  • Gururaj, a disenchanted journalist who believe he is reporting lies on the newspapers upon grapevine validation from a Gurkha night watchman, until he became mental and forsaken his rise to the editorial chair.
  • Chenayya a cycle-cart pullers, working for Ganesh Pai of Umbrella street, pulling carts which consume higher calories than his daily food intake and it doesn’t make sense to him that ‘When an elephant get to lounge downhill without doing any work at all, and a human being has to pull such a heavy cart?’
  • Soumya’s scrapping a living on begging to feed her father’s drug habits.
  • Jayamma, the Brahmin cook, was condescending to the lower caste, but she was not treated any better by her employer.
  • George D’Souza, a manual labour at construction site who became a gardener to the rich thinks he can controls his employer, Mrs Gomes, but stepped over his line and lost everything.
  • Ratnakara, a sexologist who helped his rejected potential son-in-law to seek remedy to cure his STD.
  • In the affluent neighbourhood of Bajpe, the childless couple of Giridhar Rao and Kamini, lives a life free from societal restriction. – except I don’t understand the link between Giridhar escape to his private beach and the deforestation to make way for the sport stadium. 🙂
  • Murali of Salt Market Village, a bachelor at 55, gave his life for the work of the communist party only to see the ideology losing its appeal and things have not work out for the better in India. 

It moved a few inches at a time, and then Chenayya (the cycle-cart pullers) had to stop mid-hill and clamp his foot down on the road to hold his cart in its place. When the horns began to sound, he rose from his seat and pedalled; behind him, a long line of cars and busses moved, as if he were pulling the traffic along with an invisible chain……. 

Through the eyes of all of these characters, Adiga demonstrates acid observations and textured with wicked humours and humanity. Through them I understand the lives of the poor and deprived Indians, and the bigger forces at work that kept people in poverty. Short stories are essentially harder to write than a long one, the ending should be curt enough to stop it from dragging into a long fiction, but meaningful enough to prompt the reader to ponder about the implications and the meaning of it. In my opinion, Adiga fared better in his Man booker prize winning The White Tiger than this book.

My Verdict: 3/5 

The settings, landscape depictions are brilliant. Although stories like Chenayya and Shankara’s stories are inspiring and the meanings are deep seeded, but the book and its characters left a bad taste in my mouth. I lost interest mid-way. The reason is despite being in an impoverished and destitute life situations, the main characters manage to exude an air of contempt to fellow human beings, and the outlook in life is one of finding a way to be one-up against peers by indulging in more misdemeanour and lies. Whether this is intentional or not, the writer has not created and developed endearing characters that I could empathise with, and that dilutes the horrendousness of the atrocities committed by the characters in the book towards one another. 

For my reviews on The White Tiger click here.


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


4 thoughts on “Between the Assassinations

  1. Like you I gave THE WHITE TIGER a 5 so I wonder what I will make of this when I get around to reading it. I have a feeling that it perhaps was rushed through so that he could take the most advantage possible of beeing a Booker Prize winning author (which is understantable from a financial point of view) which is why the characters are perhaps underdeveloped.

    Posted by Bernadette in Australia | October 22, 2009, 2:45 am
    • Don’t think you will miss much if you give this a miss! Many writers find it hard to repeat the success of the first book, except Stieg Larsson of course! Have a good weekend.

      Posted by jovenus | October 22, 2009, 8:24 am
  2. Normally I found books with too many characters very confusing, but this guy’s books are getting so many glowing reviews, I’ll definitely have to check it out.

    Posted by Elena | October 22, 2009, 11:37 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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