The narrative shifts back and forth between small-town Bihar and the big city—specifically Bombay-Delhi. Binod is the main actor in this drama, but three members of his family share the stage with him: his father Baba, his father’s sister-turned-politician Bua, and Bua’s son, the colourful jailbird Rabinder. The cousin spends much of the novel’s pages behind bars, yet dominates the story with his larger-than-life presence. He is more passionate, more vital and ultimately more successful than Binod. But this book isn’t about cousin rivalry, sizzling romance, dazzling success or terrifying despair. It’s about the adrenaline rush of humdrum survival eked out within the casually chaotic, blood-drenched mobocracy of today’s India.
The novel is shot through with cinematic moments. I have many favourites but one sharp-etched in memory is the journey in a hired jeep through the streets of a small hamlet during a power cut. "In the vivid darkness of the night, their presence was an intrusion. Lives had been carefully constituted...around a routine of darkness.... Again and again, they surprised people who were eating or resting. Women turned their faces away and men shaded their eyes...."