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“Autobiography of a Mad Nation is a striking work of imagination that any intelligent reader will love.”
– Bashrat Peer, Author (Curfewed Night), Script Writer (Haider)
In his second novel ‘Autobiography of a Mad Nation’, Sriram Karri takes up the herculean task of setting a story of a group of friends, against the backdrop of the ongoings of the mad nation, India. The story has many, many elements to it – all encompassed within the structure of India. It is a great attempt by the author to weave in various narratives and timelines in less than 400 pages!
The story begins with our hero (or maybe the angry anti-hero), Vikrant Vaidya writing to the President of India. He has been convicted for a crime did not commit and instead of asking for mercy, he simply states the facts of the case and lets the President decide whether or not he is guilty. The President, intrigued by our angry young man, sends Vidyasagar (Sagar), retired head of CBI to investigate whether or not Vikrant did kill the young boy Iqbal. And here begins the entire chase that leads Sagar to unfold conspiracy to conspiracy, involving some of the most influential people in the country.
The book is expansive in its scope – it offers commentary on events ranging from Emergency, to the anti-Sikh riots leading to the Ram Janmabhoomi Rath Yatra, the Mandal Commission protests, right through the economic liberalisation, the Babri Masjid demolition and finally, the riots at Godhra. It pulls in personalities from various spheres, be it cricket, politics, religion or just everyday life. It truly attempts to weave in various aspects.
But strikingly, the book doesn’t fall prey to being preachy or offering overbearing opinions on these oft discussed topics of Indian history. It sticks to the plot and there are many twists and turns that makes it a very compelling read. The characters too are well etched out, with distinct personalities and roles to play. The main drawback of the book is perhaps its repetitiveness that leaves the reader slightly frustrated.
The book is not one that I loved, but one that was definitely an interesting read. And noticeably, the one emotion that seems to remain with every character and perhaps the reader too, is exasperation at the sheer strength of the country to remain strong at the face of all the challenges it has managed to withstand, and perhaps at what may come through. As Vikrant says, “I was born in a mentally retarded nation.”
“I knew I was writing a book as a man angry with the nation, which means angry with myself. We make the nation.” – Sriram Karri
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