Between the Assassinations
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: June 2009
Duration: 10 hours 0 minutes
Between the Assassinations is loosely organized around a 6-day walking tour of the town of Kittur, India; interstitial segments connect the stories with historical, social and visual context. The stories themselves dramatize events in Kittur that occur between the assassinations of Indira Ghandi in 1984 and the assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in 1991, including a bomb explosion at a Jesuit school, corruption in the local government, and a march on the town demanding a return to traditional social values--most of these are portrayed through "marginal" elements of the town's society, characters who occur and recur throughout the collection.
If Kittur is defined by anything, it is by its restlessness with class distinctions. The town's residents fret and act almost wholly in a quest for more respect, more status and more social worth. In the first story, untitled like the rest, a 12-year-old boy named Ziauddin, a gopher at a teashop near the railway station, is nearly enticed into terrorism because a fair-skinned stranger treats him with dignity and warmth. Elsewhere, a schoolboy of a lower caste sets off an explosive in a classroom to make a vague protest against casteism. Jayamma, an old servant and cook, longs for her freedom, if only so that she can go home and play with her nephew. George D'Souza, a mosquito-repellent sprayer, elevates himself to gardener and then chauffeur to the lovely, young Mrs Gomes, and then loses it all when he attempts to be something more.
This collection addresses in greater detail, and with humor, sympathy, and unflinching candor, the antipathies between Hindus and Muslims, Indians, Pakistanis, and smaller groups such as Pathans, Brahmins, Communists, Christians. There are heartbreaking descriptions of factory workers, petty criminals, Jesuit-school students, cooks, expanding his characterizations, though diminishing the depth of their profiles as compared to Balram. Like Thomas Hardy's Wessex or William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Kittur is a literary stage walked by a rich cast of characters, each of their time and yet not defined exclusively by it. Between the Assassinations is a series of sketches that together form a blinding and brilliant mosaic of Indian life as it is lived in a place called Kittur, which by extension tells us a lot about India at large.