Title : Under Delhi
Author: Sorabh Pant
Publisher: Hachette India
Book review by Vinod Kaul
Each one of us has a devil within. Our serious law-abiding disposition is often nothing more than a social imposition. Who hasn’t once day-dreamed of giving currency to vengeful thoughts for perceived slights or, better still, trampling on what we consider our most cherished values. Would you murder or chop off an arm for this? If you are afraid to even day dream of this, then a book is a medium that will sustain your fight of fancy.
Enter the protagonist, Anita Bisht, a crusader who has taken upon herself to obtain mortal revenge for general acts of rape. The fact that she has been date-raped herself once, makes her case even stronger. But that’s where the chain of logic ends. She drives an anti-Balatkar van around the city to carry out such heinous acts as kidnapping, torture and murder. Considering that Indians in power – be it politician, god-man, khap, or even the President’s son – have put their foot in their mouths in the way they look at rape, the author’s task of giving the story a hilarious tilt is not so difficult. The average Indian stereotype – ready to rape at a moment’s notice and opportunity – is alternately pummeled, tortured and laughed at before being killed.
The author, Sorabh Pant, comes with excellent credentials for communicating with humour. At 33 years, he is rated amongst the top few Indian ‘stand-up comics’, an industry that is still in its infancy with the usually-dour Indians. Not surprisingly, he has many die-hard, belly-aching followers in the hall. Some of his wit, no doubt, has spilled onto the pages of the book.
There are as many as twenty different identified types of humour. Pant’s approach would fall into the farcical. This results in easy but superficial laughter, much like Mr Pant’s live performances likely are. However, like most farces, the story relies upon stereotypes as characters which remain relatively undeveloped.
While the author rightly rants through the pages of this book against the Indian’s cynical attitude to crimes against women (rape and acid attacks), rampant corruption, endemic sycophancy, his quick-fix solution is equally hideous – violence. This is something that the author still needs to come to terms to. As he is still young at 33, there is plenty of time for him to mature.
This is the author’s second book after ‘The Wednesday Soul’ (comic take on life after death) in the same genre. As a comedian of some repute, the author has been able to garner other entertainers, media and publishers in furtherance of his initiative in words. One wishes him all the best.
For the ordinary reader who is not necessarily looking for heavy words chasing a literary prize, this book will fill his time with quite a few laughs.
About the reviewer
Vinod Kaul is an alumnus of St.Stephen’s College, Delhi and IIM, Ahmedabad. He has worn many hats, as corporate honcho, publisher, marathon runner, independent management consultant, and more recently, a writer. His first book of short stories, ‘Confessions of an MBA’ was published by Frog Books, Leadstart Publishing.