Book Review: Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup

For Book Club Meeting: Saturday, 9th January 2010.
Venue: Ms. Sethu Kumar’s residence. Time 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm


In many ways, the essence of Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup, offers us the ready-made platter to see into a floating depth, in order to share and reflect upon our current surroundings embracing India. Acts at eliminating proofs, files, even false witnesses have been the macabre equipments put to use, not only in Indian conditions – this trend makes its presence felt, universally. Stout-hearted investigative journalists bring us through their devoted and courageous energy, the scale at how the shocking practices thrive.

‘If we take away the bamboo, how will the flute play?’ (on page 93 of Six Suspects). More often than not, persistently through times, hasn’t this one-liner been the dark motto employed in achieving evil purposes? If translated into the Hindi language, it is: Na rahega baans, na bajegi bansuri. The book Six Suspects growth, development, highlights, combine together to hover around the stated phrase; this time used by a vagrant, conscienceless, high-level state politician!

The nature of Six Suspects recreates the major-part-world of contemporary India and the country’s system which with all its decadence has crushed the pure spirit of freedom and law to reach out to the majority of the country’s population. Though India shows progress on many fronts, the forces of law and justice frighten away not only the uneducated, but also, most of the educated.

While offering the accounts in his book, there is no doubt in the mind of any reader that Swarup is resting on the original foothold of incidents that have already occurred and passed by. Many may find the ‘borrowings’ as a subject of staleness and therefore raise points of some criticism. But, personally I feel, what is wrong in re-writing history? If anything, Six Suspects assimilates in a new style and emotions: the reality which has partly come to pass and which has hardly subsided in any way. By the time I present the review on Six Suspects – most of us will be reviewing the ranks of senior officers and senior politicians, once more. Suggestive of the horror of sick minds, just in recent weeks we have two cases inviting for themselves horrible attention. You read of this ‘netaji’ hurriedly resigning on grounds of ill-health to save his hide and his political party’s reputation. He is the best-worst example of being overly erotic at the age of eighty two! The bloke was found bedding with a couple of women – all at once! (I am not sure there were two or three lady-friends with him to supply to his fantasies). Then, you have this real bad-bad-cop. Is he using that Satan’s ‘smirk’ for his self-defence? He is facing among other charges, molestation and murder. At this rate, believe it or not, my dear friends, you will agree, Vikas Swarup will never run out of content and material for more books.

Six Suspects, actually contains what comes the closest to being the general scenario of India’s ‘political’ and ‘value’ system. I would personally nurture the book as a source of actual facts, disguised in a fictional form. I may not give a special status to Swarup’s style of writing. But, he certainly carves out some fertile territory for the reader through his racy narrations. As a fitting finale, I may not touch the framework chapter-wise; but, undeniably all the same, I would take the chance to recommend the book for both Indians and the multinationals. For Vikas Swarup’s Q&A to the International Award sweeping film: Slumdog! Out of Six Suspects – is another film in the making? Why not?

Geeta Chhabra


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