The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Review-Honor For A Ransom- Rajnish Gambhir

Blurb: "April 13th, 1978. Kartar Singh, an upper caste agriculturist, guns down his newly married daughter Simran and her lower caste husband, for the sake of 'upholding family honour'.His ex-lover, Sarah Jefferson (a British psychologist) visits him in jail to discover that Kartar has been a victim of ruthless manipulation at the hands of his politician father, Dilawar Singh, who is known to unconditionally despise the lower caste. Vowing justice for Kartar, Sarah embarks on an intriguing mission, venturing to turn the tables against the unscrupulous Dilawar, who by now is a powerful minister in the Punjab cabinet. Curiously delving into his boyhood days, she is astonished to learn that young Dilawar was in fact an 'affable-boy-next-door' who too had a love life, having lost his heart to a beautiful girl in Lahore... What then caused this drastic transformation in his attitude and personality? With the time fast running out, can Sarah succeed in nailing Dilawar as the chief culprit for the honour killings? Will she be able to reunite with Kartar - the only man she ever loved? A heartrending love story - Honour for a Ransom unfolds through the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, horrifying hazards of partition, romantic strolls by the Thames, and the unbending complexities of the rigid caste system." 

Honor For A Ransom is one of the most touching books I've ever read. No, it's not a faux-emotional tear jerker like the tripe dished out by crap-tastic writers like Ravinder Singh. 
This is, in the actual sense, an emotion-filled, high on context and brutally honest book about both the caste system in India, and honor killings- a construct of patriarchy wherein society tries to control women's bodies and sexuality by interfering in their choice of life partners, and deciding when they should marry and how they should have kids. This book also struck a cord with me because it exposes the hypocrisy, tyranny and misogyny of the arranged marriage system. 
In the first scene itself, Kartar Singh, a man who is an agriculturist and a gentle being whose nimble hands have lifted nothing more dangerous than a pen- that too to write profound poetry- murders his only daughter Simran and her 'lower caste' husband in cold blood. 
Post that, it's a gut-wrenching tale of the havoc that Dilawar Singh, Kartar's sociopath father, wrecks upon the entire family. 
Gambhir effortlessly straddles timelines to tell the story of three different generations- 1947 and Partition, when young Dilawar's life is torn apart by events that transform him into a sociopath and narcissist who will go to any lengths to get what he wants; Kartar's own love life with the British lady Sarah Jefferson and how it's destroyed by his father; and Simran's own love story with her husband and how it is brought to a brutal end. 
Dilawar is very well sketched as the sociopath; so is his elder daughter-in-law, Parminder. 
Kartar's life journey is portrayed evocatively...of a good man who lacks a backbone and ends up hurting the woman he loves; and how he's shattered after gunning down his Simmo and her husband, and the tragedy that follows, and how his father treats him like his puppet. 
Both Sarah and Simran have been sketched extremely well as strong, intelligent and independent women with a mind of their own and a will of iron. They're my kind of women.
Especially the relation between Sarah and Kartar has been written very well. 
The most poignant story is that of Kartar's invalid mother and alcoholic brother Nihal- the devastating effect Dilawar has on their lives is both outrageous and sad. 

Read this book, for it will make you think about both the individual and societal evil that is patriarchy; and the bane that is the caste system. And when both combine, they make for a decadent populace that cannot rise above its mediocrity. 
The language is very good and the grammar is perfect. The editing shines through. 

Anyone who enjoyed the movie NH10 will enjoy this book too. I'd say go for it; we need more books like this, well-written and high on emotional intelligence and context.

Grab your copy here: Honour For a Ransom 

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