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Book review: Ankush Saikia's 'Dead Meat' is gory but gripping
You can't help but become a part of the case and Arjun Arora is your master in solving the murder mystery.
If you are even remotely familiar with Delhi, this part noir, part detective story will change the way you look at this walled city (that has extended much beyond its walls). Often the most historic of monuments are the ones dilapidating on the insides. Ankush Saikia's Dead Meat portrays exactly that. Gory but gripping, the story will make you rethink the idea of a metropolitan city. Laced with brutal details, the story is set entirely in Delhi. From the opening pages, Saikia has kept his focus on Arjun Arora - the army-kicked turned private detective who has been appointed to crack a complex tandoor murder case. A thorough professional, his personal life is exactly the opposite. He is going through a failed marriage, but is a doting father; has a drinking problem, but has astonishing skills when it comes to cracking a case.
Through the CR Park lanes, crooked Khirki Extension, posh Delhi clubs and filthy dump yards, the protagonist, Arjun Arora, comes out as a truly flawed character akin to a Shakespearean tragedy. At certain places, Arjun Arora's pursuit seems inconclusive, but with the twists and subtle revelations, Saikia keeps you waiting for the bait that only ends up with more confusing connections in the sinful tandoor murder case.
A cobweb of politics, cricket betting, failed marriages, and an ordinary's aspirations to reach high up the ladder; all are connected by more than just the greed for money. Saikia brings together the ordinary man with the extraordinary one in the same frame, and merely switches the power between the two.
Dead Meat isn't only about Delhi, but is a collective peek into any other metropolitan city's unseeable, filthy, abhorred underbelly. It is about how an ordinary clerk Gaurav Sharma's dreams of making it big in life lands him literally inside a tandoor; about how the 'high ups' there could also become a mere puppet in the hands of circumstances; about how each of us is equally flawed as a human being, how our needs could turn into greed and could eventually end up with unimaginable horrors.
The story might make it to the 70mm but the realities it has on platter seem right next door if you look closely; the ones which exist but we only turn a blind eye to them; the ones exposing the gruesome truth of the so-called metropolitan city - a filthy, rotten, and deceptive place on the inside, given a shiny paint job on the outside that nonetheless highlights the collapsing society living in it.
Dead Meat is repelling at first with the bloody details but as you read, you can't help but become a part of the case and Arjun Arora is your master in solving the murder mystery.
Author: Ankush Saikia. Publisher: Penguin. Pages: 416. Price: Rs 399. Also available as an ebook.
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