Nothing but a bad joke

Nothing but a bad joke

Serious fiction? Plain fantasy? Historical novel? Or a joke? When I was through, I got my answer: it is nothing but a bad joke. Why? For that, you need to know the story (or the lack of it).

The supposed thriller begins in circa 1945. A Mitsubishi K1-21 bomber — carrying Subhas Chandra Bose (the commander of the INA), his trusted bodyguard Bezbaruah and 30 million pounds in gold with Nazi imprint, crashes — nothing more is learnt about it since then. Three men masterminded the crash, so tells Etteth, and only the trio still knows what happened to the gold.

Sixty years pass. Bezbaruah’s son, now a trained mysterious killer, is all set to kill the trio and accumulate the wealth; also in the process he learns where his dad’s remains could be found. Now, the Killer is a Tarzan, invincible, and knows everything that is going on in Indian intelligence agencies; he can reach anywhere, anytime, like Superman; he is invincible, like Mandrake. He is ruthless, like Jack the Ripper. Until... until he finds out that his opponents are no lesser mortals: Anna Khan (super cop, whose husband was killed by a Kashmir militant), and Jay Samorin (martial art specialist from a Kerala royal family). Khan and Samorin are now together and have sex all the time when they are not doing dishum-dishum.

DCP Khan and her fighter-gigolo friend are all set to find out how Samorin’s wild pet, Bharadwaj (one of the 1945 trio), his daughter, her lesbian girlfriend, the lesbian girl’s boyfriend and lastly, Khan’s own dad (the second of the trio) were killed. And naturally they want to nab the killer and squeeze him to death.

The story revolves around Delhi, Kashmir, Haridwar, Kerala... sans any honesty, subjectivity or any sense of timing. Difficult to believe? So what? It is fiction, right? Wrong. Etteth is only interested in showing off his knowledge of a Delhi high life (Versace, Prada, Armani), his convoluted vocabulary, and his possession of the ‘historical’ facts of the INA. But, ahem, they do not contribute to the continuity of the narration he intends his readers would scurry through.

Sorry for the digression. The story is not over yet. Then comes a character called Tulsi, who seems to have even wooed Alexander the Great, is the godmother of all the nefarious and internecine happenings in the whole world, and can even get pregnant by Samorin (so what if she is in her 80s — or is it 180s?

Now, the third of the trio happens to be Samorin’s dad. So believable! And this Tulsi, who is ravishingly beautiful and has had sex with almost all the royals, fighters and mafia goons since a century, is the person who helps Samorin and Khan to get rid of the killer. How? She personally kills him.

If this weren’t a ‘serious’ thriller, and a joke book, I would have loved it. Nevertheless, I am sure Etteth did not mean it so; so might be the commissioning editors of the novel in question. To be frank, the book is a page-turner; in a way that, you read it in disbelief but with a suppressed smirk. And the language is good at times. But lexis is, fiction is not. Other defining and ‘entertaining’ moments in the book are the varied sexual activities: from lesbianism, voyeurism, to even bestiality. The talented Ravi Shankar (Etteth) should have stuck on to what he is really good at: political cartooning and social commentaries.

The Gold Of Their Regrets
Ravi Shankar Etteth
Penguin, 2009,
pp 227, Rs 250