Remember, son, the final seat of all achievement is neither the head nor the heart nor the muscles. It is the ass. Courage and determination lives in the ass! When the odds stack up against men, when the challenges mount, it is the ass that gives way first! All my life I have seen it. The asshole opens up and bleats like a goat. The head and the heart and the muscles see it, and follow suit.
– Rajbir Gujjar to young Vishal (later to become the dreaded killer Hathoda Tyagi), p.424, The Story of My Assassins
To hail Tarun Tejpal’s new book The Story of My Assassins as a mere masterpiece would be like saying the Kohinoor is a mere diamond or dismissing Abhishek Bachchan as just another Bollywood idiot!
As most Indians know, the Kohinoor is the pride of India and more than a mere diamond. And Abhishek, each time the dolt opens his mouth, adds depth and ballast to the concept of idiocy.
No book on India has ever captured the idiom of India, yesterday, today and tomorrow, so beautifully like The Story of My Assassins.
Like all great works of art, The Story of My Assassins defies easy definition.
If pressed, I’d say the book is a nonpareil tragi-comedy, capturing all that’s grotesque, tragic, uplifting, depressing and comic about India.
In short, to read The Story of My Assassins is to understand Incredible India in its myriad odd facets.
Every character, and there are so many in The Story of My Assassins, leaps out of the pages to scream out his or her idiosyncrasies.
Besides the five colorful assassins Chaaku, Kabir, Kaaliya, Chini and Hathoda Tyagi, there’s Sara, Chutiya-Nandan-Pandey, Ghulam, Sippy, Guruji, Hathi Ram, Jai and so many others.
One of the many charms of this delightful book is that there’s no such thing as a lesser character.
Compared to all the characters, the narrator seems positively normal, except for his priapic obsession for banging Sara.
There are no holy cows in The Story of My Assassins.
From the country’s convent schools to the bureaucracy, the temples, the police and the nouveau riche, every Indian institution of any note comes under the satirical glare of Tarun Tejpal’s keen insight.
Tejpal’s writing is par excellence, every page dripping in sarcasm, seething with rage and pulsating with life.
The setting for the story is Delhi, foraying occasionally into neighboring states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana although a few characters like Chini come from far off, rainy places like Manipur.
So the tome (529-pages) is North Indian and cow-belt centric in tone.
To canvass the many virtues of an extraordinary book like The Story of My Assassins to all ye chutiyas is like casting pearls before a swine.
It’s unlikely that most of you classless chutiyas would ever bother to pick up such a fine work. Of course, you gaandus would be the loser then.
This splendid book is available in both Kindle ($13.99) and print ($18.45) versions.
But there’s no need to spend a penny to read this gem since most U.S. county and city libraries carry The Story of My Assassins.