Millennium Post

When Bengal went to China

Why Don’t we attack China?’ the CA asked the General, ‘It’s big. It’s close. It’s hard to miss.’

When you read a book it is tough to enter an author’s mind and fathom his exact thoughts. You can arrive at your own conclusions about inspirations and influences that lead to the creation of these fictitious events and characters that have no similarities to anyone living or dead. Any similarity is coincidental (or perhaps not). Unless you know the author; in this case I don’t. Ergo, the liberty to arrive at various conclusions remains with me.

The Competent Authority (TCA) by Shovon Chowdhury is a book that describes an India that might come to be. Considering the current circumstances (in reality), it isn’t impossible. ‘...The war had turned half the country into a pile of shit...under the cover of darkness, which had lasted throughout Asia for six months, the Competent Authority had rearranged governance for better efficiency. The war had wiped out most of Delhi and Bombay, along with large chunks of UP and Punjab. Punjab was hit by the Americans by mistake. They had been aiming for Islamabad...’

China has nuked parts of the country including Delhi forming the Dead Circle, and ten years have passed since. The Dalai Lama reincarnated on Indian soil and the erstwhile Prime Minister had publically fed the child a piece of dhokla  with peppermint chutney. And according to the Competent Authority (CA) Bengal, as pathetic and insignificant, was too arrogant to contribute to the well-being of India, was considerably unaffected by the war and seceded from the Indian Union and sold Darjeeling to China. They also invited in a Chinese governor and became a Protectorate. The Bengal virus in the form of Maoist vermin spread west infecting Bihar and Orissa.

TCA creates a future that lies a few decades ahead replete with a toxic Dead Circle, a Bank of Bodies that replaces body parts of wealthy patrons by hacking them away from the semi-independent poor people of Shanti Nagar, all running as smoothly as an auto on CNG under the instructions of the deranged bureaucrat - CA. The moot focus of CA’s every rant is that he wants China to nuke India again. Period. And stopped, he must be.

TCA, apart from boasting of an insanely tongue-in-cheek narrative, can boast of some brilliant characters. There is Hemonto and Banani Chatterjee, Ram Manohar Pande, Pintoo, Pappu, Ali, Shanti Bai, the PM and last but not the least the CA himself. The motley crew of Chowdhury’s fictional future who can save the country or cant.

There is time travel and some history lessons thrown in for good measure and if we were to leave that out - TCA comes interestingly close to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in narrative tone. The matter-of-fact style that Chowdhury aces seems to be tumbling out of the author’s mouth one Saturday evening over the fifth glass of whiskey (I am assuming it is whiskey, I don’t know the author’s choice of poison - so like all potential influences I shall assume this one as well).

The India that Chowdhury creates, if one comes to think of it, is a vision we could well be hurtling towards. Replete with a Shri Shri Yo Yo, ‘who now sang about religion instead of rape, since he’d been to jail, and experienced it.’ With Bengal’s preoccupation with Mao Tse Tung, chowmein isn’t a bad move, vegetable chowmein is. Especially with the rampant Haryanvi Horror. And before I digress, if you don’t read
- your life is more or less incomplete.

The CA, as he ‘stepped out of the lift, dreaming of fire and flexing his thumb’ will remind you of a certain iconic figure who is lobbying to become the next PM. The CA himself is a figure so authoritarian that I could not but wonder if Chowdhury  had this certain Narendra Modi in mind. At the risk of being branded a pseudo-secularist, the CA’s character traits read eerily close to that Hindutva strongman’s.

In case it is you Mr Modi - ‘ No Sir...please not that. Anything but that. Don’t send me to Calcutta, sir. Some of them are cannibals.’
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