WRITING STYLE: 5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5
A satire is almost always an interesting read. Masterly crafted words burn every significant thing to the ground; it defies authority and authority is made the subject of its pun. Critics and intellectuals thoroughly enjoy it but it fails to capture the imagination of a layman because of excessive use of metaphors and figurative. Most of us have enjoyed reading Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ without realising that it was a satire on English politics of that time. We must have read Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ or Voltaire’s ‘Candide’ as a curriculum in school but were too young to enjoy the beauty of those works. I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Neamat Imam’s ‘The Black Coat’, a satire on the Mujib Government of Bangladesh.
This book, The Competent Authority, by Shovon Chowdhury, is a satire on almost all the power circles of our country – the government, the bureaucracy, the police, the army, social workers, spiritual gurus and others. The beauty of this book is that it is not meant only for literati. It has an amusing story with comic characters, and can be enjoyed by greenhorn readers as well.
In the 2030s, India has been nuked by the Chinese and is in a pitiable state. Pakistan ceases to exist after being bombed by the Americans. With this backdrop, Shovon contrives a humorous story defacing the power mongers who bear a striking similarity to certain people in power of the current day. The PM of the country is a dummy, while the actual power rests in the hand of ‘The Competent Authority’, a man whose existence is known only to a handful few and is feared by all. The radiation has had strange effects on the populace – some have become telepaths, some mutants, and one can bend the space-time continuum, Pintoo. When the Bank of Bodies, whose business is organ trafficking, takes away Pintoo’s hand for a rich boy, he decides to use his power for the greater good. After due deliberation with Tarun-da, the communist, and the ancient headmaster, he identifies three events in India’s history – Direct Action Day, 1946; Gandhiji’s assassination, 1948; Pokhran nuclear test, 1998 – and decides to change their outcome and thus alter the course of Indian history. To help him in his cause, he identifies three misfits – a CBI clerk, a corrupt cop and an al-Qaeda operative – who have to travel through time and take proactive measures to recreate history. Can the oddballs change the annals as we know it today? Or will they perish in their endeavour? Is changing the past enough to change the future? These questions are wonderfully answered by Shovon.
The writing style is flawless, crisp and crunchy, and the language delectable. The pace is steady, neither fast nor slow. The characters in the book are terrific and you can relate them to people you regularly watch in the news. The only turn-off is the number of pages, 450, which is high by any standards. A little bit of trimming here and there and the book would have been flawless and could be rated a straight 5. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and am sure you will enjoy it too.