Editor’s note: New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi makes her debut as a fiction writer with her latest book, The New Delhi Conspiracy. Co-authored by Lekhi and Krishna Kumar, the book, a political thriller, was launched on Friday by BJP MP JP Nadda at NCUI Auditorium & Convention Centre, New Delhi.
The book is a work of fiction and claims to be adventurous and intriguing and begins with the death of a scientist, who warns a woman politician in New Delhi about the impending danger to the life of Raghav Mohan, the beloved Prime Minister of the country. Lekhi has tapped into the undercurrents of Delhi’s political landscape and set her novel amidst the current socio-political context. This novel claims to keep the readers hooked, as it also attempts to lay bare the deep divides and ideologies that are influencing the course of the nation’s political trajectory.
Here's an excerpt from the book.
Professor Narayan Deo Bakshi watched the leaves of the parijat tree rustle in the morning breeze. The gentle sway of the offshoots, flushed with the rich blossom of white flowers, added to the serenity of the morning. Flowers falling intermittently on the grassy patch below had turned the ground into a white carpet.
With a cup of tea in his hand, he settled himself comfortably in a garden chair. The aroma of green tea, brewed and served a short while ago, pervaded the air around him. Just yesterday, a visiting professor from Germany had paid rich compliments to the beautiful lawn. ‘A house without a garden is like dinner without wine,’ Professor Bakshi had quipped. ‘The gardens in Delhi are bewitching; they’re good for your eyes but bad for your lungs,’ he had added, referring to the rising level of PM in Delhi’s air; PM, as in particulate matter. But Bakshi’s real concern was about another PM – Prime Minister Raghav Mohan.
‘This man is dangerous and proving to be quite invincible’, he had explained to the visiting professor while strolling around the patio. ‘Not just Delhi, he has made the whole country unliveable!’ Now, Bakshi sat checking his emails as he sipped his tea. Whose article should I retweet today?
He scrolled down the list.
‘Rising Violence on Dalits in the Past 4 Years’ by Sumana Ghosh from Harvard Kennedy School. ‘Umm … No, no, no Sumana! You missed it,’ he murmured. He dialled a number on his phone. Sumana was on the line from Harvard.
‘Hi Sumana, I went through your article,’ Bakshi said when she picked up. ‘You missed the point completely. It’s not in accordance with what we’d discussed. It fails to link the issue specifically with Raghav Mohan’s policies. Okay, hammer it home in your next article. See, there’s no point in highlighting an atrocity if we can’t have Raghav Mohan implicated in it. ’
He moved on to the next.
‘Intolerance on the Rise: Right to Life Ends at your Dinner Plate in the New India’, wrote Stuti Desai, an Associate Professor at Humboldt University, Germany. The article was a scathing attack on Raghav Mohan and directly linked the violence against beef eaters to the PM’s policies. Bakshi grinned, happy that Stuti had followed his instructions well. This piece would make for the perfect retweet that morning.
He retweeted the article with the remark – ‘Is fringe the new mainstream @pmraghavmohan? The nation finds your silence deafening.’
Satisfied, he put his phone aside and turned his attention to the newspaper lying on the side table. It carried a front-page story on the welfare efforts of the Raghav Mohan government for Dalits and minorities, drawing applause from international bodies. The headlines leapt to his eyes. Piqued, he folded the newspaper and put it away from his view. Such stories didn’t merit his attention. He would never tweet such ‘propaganda’.
He revelled in the fact that he commanded a growing number of followers on Twitter but grieved to realize that the majority of them were intolerant; they wouldn’t digest his posts and, instead, would post counter-facts and research, questioning his assumptions and exposing his posts to critical analysis. He was sick of these people.
Those opposing your viewpoints in the old days were welcomed; now they’re called trolls. With progress, dissent has lost its glory and respect. Once a proud companion of democracy, dissent is now orphaned; no one on either side of the fence likes it. The hallowed ‘critic’ of yore has become ‘intolerant’ in the modern times. That’s the law of progression, maybe!
Professor Bakshi never paid attention to trolls. Ignoring such intolerant morons was a saner choice than responding to them, he thought. That’s why he never replied to any of the comments on his social media posts. As he’d learned a long time back, hit-and-run was the best practice on social media.
He logged off Twitter.
Professor Narayan Deo Bakshi was an academician, philosopher, writer, intellectual, columnist, motivational speaker and a thought leader of contemporary India. After a successful teaching stint across many prestigious universities around the globe, he had taken a mid-career retirement to devote himself to writing.
He had both the ability and the fortune to take the well-defined route towards success in life – a prestigious boarding school in Dehradun, followed by a degree from an even more prestigious college in New Delhi and subsequent higher studies and research opportunities in different Ivy League institutions in the US that landed him teaching jobs at eminent universities across the States and Europe.
With a fairly good academic record and scores of publications in leading journals under his belt, Bakshi had made a name for himself in the global academic community. However, as a triumph of his grumbling inner voice, he chose to retire from active academic life and, in order to appease his inner self, threw himself into full-time writing.
The prolific writer in him spawned more than a dozen books over a decade, further enhancing his reputation as an intellectual. Revered both within India and internationally, Bakshi, now based in Delhi, toured frequently to give lectures and wrote columns for various newspapers and magazines of repute. The Delhi media pursued him hotly for his take on numerous issues.
Bakshi’s engagement with the wider society continued on many levels as he went on to become a trustee in the boards of innumerable trusts and foundations. He was also a managing trustee in the organizations he himself had created. Such trusts attracted huge donations from donors around the world.
Among national donors, the government had, until recently, been his biggest support; but ever since the arrival of the new government under Raghav Mohan, much to the chagrin of Bakshi, the government’s support to his trusts had begun to dwindle. Fortunately for him, foreign support had continued to pour in.
Several of these trusts supported his academic pursuits and helped him employ an army of young people who carried on research and data-mining activities on his behalf. This, in turn, kept him afloat in the tide of intellectual one-upmanship and ensured him a position of power in society.
Sturdy in build, moderate in height and prosaic in looks, Bakshi, to a lay observer, would have passed off as just another man-on-the-street but for his intense eyes that looked piercing, his nose that turned stiff owing to his perceived sense of superiority and his perceptive face that shone with the radiance of a scholarly consciousness; he came across as a personage to be held in deference.
Because of his habit of having the last word in any conversation, he had developed a gruff, authoritative voice that went well with his brusque mannerism. Bakshi had acquired his ideas and world view from what he felt to be the legacies of the Age of Enlightenment – libertarianism, socialism, secularism, individualism, progressivism and modernity. On a theoretical level, he held hard to certain notions like the spirit of enquiry, the right to free speech and the right to question, and believed them to be man’s inalienable rights. However, his right to ask questions meant his own right to ask questions from one and all – not others’ right to ask him similar questions.
Within his core, he was an eternal opponent and considered it as the test of his intellectual existence. He had taken upon himself the task of spearheading the political activism of his time and went on to become its principal ideological pole.
Through his complex network of finances and controls, he had set political narratives in India, which were fed to the Western media for their domestic audience. Such narratives shaped the world’s impression of India. This activism wasn’t without rewards as Bakshi’s trusts became the hot centre for the flow of overseas funds from foreign agencies that claimed to promote democracy and liberalism around the world. Bakshi knew the science of trust and the art of using it to support his five-star lifestyle, involving frequent business-class travel and wining and dining in luxury hotels around the world with people of his ilk and choice.
Bakshi had smiled in his garden chair; a new trust, possibly the biggest yet, was going to be launched today.
LIFE Foundation. A real game changer, Bakshi thought and smirked to himself.
The following excerpt from Meenakshi Lekhi and Krishna Kumar's book, The New Delhi Conspiracy has been published with permission from HarperCollins Publishers, India. The book costs Rs 250 (paperback)