Aravind Adiga tells a handful of short stories happening in a fictional coastal city named Kittur in South India. Kittur, like many other coastal cities, has Hindus, Muslims, movie theaters, restaurants and a central market. You will find people from all walks of life in this city with their own prejudices. Aravind Adiga takes us through a walking tour of the city at the beginning of each chapter and then narrates a story.
The stories are set between the two assassinations that rocked the country – the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and that of Rajiv Gandhi in 1990. The organization of the book is reminiscent of RK Narayanan. But the comparison ends here. The various stories in this book deals with the differences in the living style of people; the inequality in caste, religion and economic status. The Hindu-Muslim conflict are a prominent feature in the early part of the book. Then, the book takes on corruption and the hopelessness of the lower class.
Through the stories, the reader is familiarized with people like Ziauddin who is exploited for his hatred towards Hindus, Abbasi who is bogged down by corruption, Xerox who makes a living by selling books obtained through illegal means, Shankara who is the son of the high caste father and a low caste mother, D’Mello who wants to achieve fame through his favorite student, Keshava who rises high and subsequently takes a plunge, Gururaj who was a fiery journalist once, Chenayya who toils hard, Sowmya who begs to buy ganja for her dad, Jayamma who makes money for her relative by working as servant, George who hates the rich but plans deviously to take control of a married woman’s house, Ratna who reluctantly helps a diseased person, Giridhar Rao and Kamini a childless couple who entertains friends every week and Murali a disillusioned communist.
Aravind Adiga narrates the story in an uneven pace. He is very descriptive at places where he takes time to explain events. But then he takes off rapidly with the rest of the story. The stories are melancholic. The setting of the story – between the assassinations – is not very clear. The stories depict the state of the country not necessarily in any particular period but any time after independence.