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Book review 'Sultan of Delhi: Ascension' – Family dynamics

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | NISHTHA KANAL
Published Oct 27, 2016, 12:14 am IST
Updated Oct 27, 2016, 7:15 am IST
Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray Hachette India pp. 304, Rs 223.
 Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray Hachette India pp. 304, Rs 223.

Awaiting the release of his fourth book, Sultan of Delhi: Ascension, Arnab Ray explains that it’s his keen interest in Indian politics that drove him to write a novel that explored the machinations of Delhi politics. Part one of a two book series, Ascension deals with the rise of Arjun Bhatia, who goes from being an arms smuggler in Uttar Pradesh to the most influential powerbroker in the capital of post-partition India.

At the heart of it, Sultan of Delhi is a crime story that plays out against the backdrop of a family saga. The story starts off with Arjun moving out of the shadows of being the son of a penniless refugee from Lahore and goes on to span five decades and two generations across the two books.

“As Indians,” explains Arnab, “all of us — whether we want it or not — expend a lot of our emotional bandwidth dealing with family. So, it’s natural that the family, as a concept, seeps into our writing.”

The author adds that it was the birth of his daughter that added to the familial layer of Sultan of Delhi. “I became a father almost four years ago, which is when I wrote the book’s first draft. And so much of it, behind the layer of the political thriller, is about fatherhood, coping with children, and of children coping with their parents, of expectations, of living up to them or failing. Now, all this could well be set in a family where the family business is of automotive components, but then the crime angle brings in another level of drama. The epic quality if you will.”

However, Arnab had decided that the book had to be as much about the business of crime as it was about the family. “Books in the genre usually concentrate on one and exclude the other. I also didn’t want this business to be prostitution, gambling or drugs because it had been done before. Delhi, the world of power-players, government-fixers, deal-facilitators, criminals with iron fists in velvet gloves becomes my world,” he smiles. “At the core of it, it’s still about a man who controls the country, yet struggles to have a grip on his own family.”

Sultan of Delhi: Ascension, happens to be the 40-year-old author’s fourth book, after an assorted collection of write-ups in his debut May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss, the horror-thriller The Mine, and the deeply moving Yatrik.

However, the Ph.D in Computer Science got into the writing game with the backing of readers who had been following the blog under his moniker, Greatbong, for nearly a decade. Point out to Arnab that none of his books are like the others, and he quickly says, “I write the books I like to read. If I enjoy different genres, why should my writing be restricted to one?” Even so, there are common themes and styles that run across all of his books.

“Bollywood and humour — those are the common factors. In this book, I’ve tried to show the passage of time through pop culture references, the conversations people have, and the music. There’s a lot of old-world dialoguebaazi too,” he laughs.

As far as the sequel goes, he informs us that it’s still in the making. “The outline is fixed and I’ve written about 20 percent of it. Right now, there is negotiations underway with a major production house on cinematic adaptations of the entire Sultan of Delhi saga. If that happens, the second book will be out soon,” he signs off.

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