Book Review: The Sialkot Saga by Ashwin Sanghi

During my last visit to Cha Bar there was the usual wait to get a table so I decided to kill time by looking around the bookstore. What started as a casual “I will just look what’s new” ended up with a basket full of books. One of the first books I picked up that day was Ashin Sanghi’s Sialkot Saga. I have read 3 books written by this author before I bought Sialkot Saga and thanks to my previous experience with his writing, I was definitely looking forward to quickly pay for it, take it home and start reading it.  

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The Sialkot Saga is a mix of two stories, one that has been going on for centuries and the other which starts with the partition of India and Pakistan. The book starts with the story of Partition of India, 1947 where the last train from Pakistan has just entered Amritsar station and Railway Constable Sukhbir Singh stumbles upon a boy who has survived and just when he was about to give up the search for any other survivors, he hears another cry.

The historical portion of the story takes you back to Pataliputra where King Ashoka is dealing with his conscience post the War of Kalinga. He is now trying to create a society of Nine Men, who will guard the secret they think will ensure peace, better, healthier and longer life.

The story further moves on to the metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Kolkata where it talks about two protagonists-Arbaaz Khan and Arvind Bagadia. Over the next few pages you learn all about their lives, their childhood, what motivates them, their demons and all the big and small moves they make to move up the ladder of success.during the course of time you see that their paths cross more often than normal indication some kind of an underlying association.

The book is filled with real episodes that have happened  since 1947 and even refers to famous personalities like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indira Gandhi etc. Some of the characters are clearly inspired by famous goons and celebrities which made the story interesting but overall it lacked the usual mysterious tone.I was expecting the usual dose of the typical Sanghi style of linking modern day-to-day functioning to a particular chapter of a historical event but in this book I just got like two pages of it. This book was more drama than mystery and even though the characters and the plot made me read the whole book, my interest level started dwindling after the first 100 or so pages. Also,I felt kind of cheated by the title if I may add because the whole thought behind it was only shared during the climax and even the climax lacked the usual charm of the author’s previous writing. 

Overall, I have to say I was left a little disappointed with this book considering the kind of expectations I had. I think the author tried to move away from his niche but wasn’t quite successful and that just resulted in an unsatisfying reading experience. I applaud the author for trying to write something different from his usual genre but I think his attempt to put a little bit of the Sanghi effect in the book really confused me as reader.

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