In her first novel about Indian politics, Shobhaa Dé finds a new dummy to drape in her well-worn devices, says AJACHI CHAKRABARTI
EXPOSING THE dark, venal heart of Indian politics, Sethji is an absolutely unputdownable novel about ambition, greed — and above all, trust.
Or so says the blurb at the back. First, Shobhaa Dé’s latest novel is eminently putdownable. The plot is thin, the storytelling is clichéd and the twists in the tale politely send RSVPs months in advance (generally, they can’t make it). Neither does it expose the “dark, venal heart of Indian politics”. Unless you’ve been living under a rock and didn’t know that Indian politicians aren’t altruistic idealists who wake up every day thinking about what they can do for our country, there’s not much exposed in Sethji.
The eponymous Sethji is a regional political satrap from Uttar Pradesh (inspired by Sitaram Kesri, says Dé), who is a crucial coalition partner at the Centre. He’s facing a challenge to his position due to corruption charges, compounded by his son raping a Northeastern girl. He wriggles his way out of that situation only to hurtle into another. He and his family are abducted by a Mumbai don backed by powerful commercial interests. Still, he and his trusted daughter-in-law Amrita plot their way out (with all the finesse of a hippopotamus). Defying all
• Dissecting the elite Shobhaa Dé