The Case of the Love Commandos by Tarquin Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Tarquin Hall is a British journalist hailing from London. He has written Vish Puri India's "Most Private Investigator” books. Hall has a good understanding of Indian realities. He weaves these in Vish Puri books.
Ram and Tulsi are in love. Ram is a Dalit (lower caste shudra, untouchable) and Tulsi is Brahmin. Naturally her father is against the alliance and tries to prevent them from getting married. There is a secret organisation called “THE LOVE COMMANDOS” who tries to unite these star crossed lovers and guards them against honour killings. But on the fateful day Ram is kidnapped and Tulsi is taken in hiding by commandos. Vish’s assistant Facecream, who is a part of Love commandos, gives the investigation to Vish. When he starts investigating it is known that Ram’s mother is also murdered. The conspiracy goes much beyond a simple love story. There is an institute which carries out research in genetics and DNA, a corrupt CM and politicians. And it has Vish competitor Hari also.
Tarquin Hall understands India very well. Look the way he describes caste:
“We are a research institute, Mr. Puri. But I would say this: India will never progress, never join the rest of the civilized world, until we are rid of the caste system once and for all. It is utterly divisive, breeds corruption in our political system and ensures that tens of millions of Indians remain mired in poverty and ignorance—a great albatross around our collective necks. So, yes, it is my sincerest hope that our research will change the way society regards itself.”
The journalists in India are not trustworthy and are corrupt
“You should never believe what you read in the papers, Hari—journalists being corrupt and complacent and all.”
India is a vast, poor and populous country. It is very difficult the police and Uttar Pradesh is a very big state. Police in India is highly corrupt and in collusion with political masters.
"Puri knew he was wasting his breath with such a fundamental question. On average, fourteen people died and fifty-seven others were injured on the roads of India every hour. Even if the police had wanted to investigate each incident, there wasn’t the manpower to do so. Uttar Pradesh alone was short of nearly a quarter of a million civil and armed police. And its serving officers were essentially uniformed bribe takers. Most raked in several lakhs per month from truck drivers alone, a goodly percentage of which ended up in the pockets of their superiors and political masters."
Driving in India is a nightmarish experience.
“Normal driving meant driving like everyone else—in other words, winding through traffic without signaling, straddling two lanes at once, flashing “dippers” at any car that dared to get in the way, honking incessantly, jumping queues at red lights and wherever possible blocking everyone behind trying to go straight ahead.”
Finally a little preaching.
“Tradition and customs have their place and provide us with key reference points and a certain continuity. However, rigidity in thinking is the enemy of progress. Likewise, babies should not be thrown out with the bathwater. It is for young people also to act responsibly during times of change. A successful marriage is built on mutual understanding and compatibility. Love should also be there.”
Tarquin Hall is very witty and humorous. He keeps the tone light despite dealing serious issues like caste, poverty, corruption and murder. He makes you feel for the poor dalits. The village society is deeply divided on caste and religious lines. Even the ramshackle school has divisions. Everyone is busy looting the system be it the lowly village Pradhan or Chief Minister. There is huge oppression. The newly powerful castes like Yadavs also become oppressors of Dalits. In fact they are worse then Brahmins.
The concept of DNA mapping of castes is a novel one. If what is said is true we can definitively know the origin of castes and degree of intermingling amongst various castes. Indian caste system is based on very rigid segregation of castes and little or no intermarriage. This has its pros and cons.
This is most unjust social system. It divides the society and makes it weak. The shudras at the bottom, are worst sufferers and bear the burnt of this. They have no opportunity to break free from this vicious circle of oppression, poverty, ignorance and despair.
If lovers are from different castes it is not accepted and it sometimes lead to honour killings also especially in rural parts of North India. There are self styled Khap Panchaytas who are like Kangaroo courts and sanction these killings with impunity. They are answerable to no law or courts and derive their authority from caste order.
The worst part is caste is sanctified as a part of Hindu religion. It is mentioned in all religious scriptures including the Geeta.
Lord Krishna speaks to Arjuna as he clarifies the origin and purpose of the caste system in sanaatana dharma (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, Shloka 13).
cāturvarṇyaṃ mayā sṛṣṭaṃ guṇakarmavibhāgaśaḥ .
tasya kartāramapi māṃ viddhyakartāramavyayam .. 4\-13..
I have created this four fold order ( 4 varnas / castes namely - Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras) according to the quality of work.
They constitute the four-fold order. The three gunas - sattva, rajas and tamas - and the law of karma - these four elements were divided by Me to create the four varnas.
Sattva guna predominates in Brahmins - and they are assigned the tasks (karma) of sham, dam, tapas (meditation) etc.
Rajas guna predominates in Kshatriyas - sattva guna is secondary. Their karma is to be warriors and show bravery and tejas.
Rajas guna also predominates in Vaishyas - tamas guna is secondary. Their karma is to be farmers and traders.
Tamas guna predominates in Shudras - rajas guna is secondary. Their karma is to serve others.
If something is sanctified by religion and an AVATAR of Vishnu (Incarnation of God Vishnu) it is very difficult to argue with. A person fate is sealed at birth and he is doomed to live up to his pre ordained destiny.
Puri’s associates have funny names like Handbrake, Facecream and Tubelight. The tone is kept light but he never loses sight of the bigger picture.
Vish’s mummyji and wife, Rumpi provide comic relief. Mummyji is a parallel investigative firm. But I find that distracting and it breaks the flow of the story.
At some point I have to stop reading and laugh for a minute or two. Like the scene where Tulsi is crying again and again.
“If she keeps crying like this she would have to be taken to a hospital and rehydrated”.
In the end a very good book. 9/10 stars.
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