Excerpt from the book
Hebbar spotted the Chrompet outlet, his maiden venture, a hundred metres away, across the road, beyond the divider, next to Vetri theatre. He would have to go all the way to the flyover, which was a kilometre away and do a U-turn beneath it to reach the restaurant. He was excited to visit the place. It had been a year since he had visited the restaurant. From the humble 500-sq.ft eatery he’d started 40 years ago, it had grown to a two-storey building—a non-A/C dining hall on the ground floor and an
A/C hall on the first floor. There was underground parking for 20 cars.A huge flex banner announcing the fortieth anniversary with his and Padmavathy’s photographs covered the entire frontage of the restaurant. Madhav had told him that he had identical banners in all their outlets.
He saw a small crowd in front of the restaurant. Just around 30 to 40 persons. Did Madhav send him to manage this small crowd? Anyway, it was an opportunity to spend a day in the restaurant, after almost 10 years of being away. He smiled. As he neared, he intuitively felt that something was wrong. The crowd did not look like one of enthusiastic customers waiting for their turn. Two Tata Safaris parked haphazardly in the front with their doors wide open warned him of something amiss. Then, the sight of a few customers looking terrified and running out of the restaurant caused a queasy feeling in his stomach. The problem was different and perhaps more serious than handling a few unruly customers. He slowed the car a bit to get a clear view of what was happening. Did he see smoke emanating from inside? The honks of impatient cars from behind forced him to move fast.
He speeded up towards the flyover to take a U-turn. It would be at least fifteen minutes in this heavy traffic. He had no option. The timer in the traffic signal below the flyover tested his patience. 79…78…77…
An auto driver passed by him, stopped just in front of him and killed the engine. 45…44…43…
He was too impatient to curse the auto driver. 3…2…1… Oops! The auto refused to start. Other vehicles behind him moved left, passed by him and turned around. He could not navigate around the auto.
His restaurant seemed to be burning and he was stuck in this mindless traffic.
Finally, when the auto responded to the driver’s frantic efforts and started, the traffic light had turned red. Shit! He waited for the next green light and turned around and reached the restaurant. By then, the damage had been done. The building was in flames.
“Kannada naygala, savungada!” A deafening chorus welcomed him. As he got down from his car, he saw a few men whose looks did not give him much comfort, throw their sickles and hockey sticks in the boot and board the vehicles. The doors were slammed shut and the vehicles started with a screech. Who were they? Why did the vehicles carry the ruling Progressive Democratic Party’s (PDP) flags?
You can bump into her the next time you visit the vegetable market. You can spot her in the pharmacy round the corner. Or in the grocery near the bus stop where she will be negotiating the prices with the grocer.
She is Mythili. The unassuming, down-to-earth wife of Sesha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. She does not give a damn about the security protocols that surround the Chief Minister and his family. Would you believe that she once gave the slip to the specially trained security team guarding her husband, dragged him out after a lecture to the Anna University students and took him out for a romantic drive in the middle of the night? If you think she must be a girl in her twenties, you are wrong. So horribly wrong. She is 40. But what has age to do with a heart brimming with romance?
Hers was an arranged marriage. That she would marry her cousin Sesha was decided by her father and Sesha’s mother when she was just five years old. She had no qualms that her father decided for her. One of those old types.
She has been watching Sesha for the past 35 years.
He established his authority over her as a 12-year-old boy—he would expect her to follow him when he finished lunch, offer water for washing his hands and a towel for drying them. He imitated his grandfather, who wanted his wife to do such jobs. Like her grandmother, she enjoyed being his minion.
A few years later when she asked her father to buy bangles for her while on a shopping trip with Sesha and others, Sesha took offence. His grouse: She should have asked him for bangles. She felt proud that he was possessive about her.
As a teenager, when he got almost drowned in Cauvery, she dived into the river and rescued him. She was amused by his clumsy attempt to impress her.
Much later, more than twenty years into their marriage, after Sesha has become the Chief Minister of the state, when he is accused of complicity in the murder of 73 Kannadigas because the neighbouring state stopped releasing water, she dismisses the charge with contempt. Of course, when the court is on the verge of declaring him guilty and when the media predicts his arrest, she is, no doubt, disturbed. But something in her tells that Sesha is incapable of crime. When the court acquits him finally, she feels vindicated.
She is confident she knows him very well. Like the back of her hand.
But then comes the gravest charge. A young nurse who took care of Mythili two years ago alleges sexual harassment by Sesha. Mythili has high regards for the nurse. She is not someone who will level a frivolous charge. A celebrity lawyer lends support to the nurse and vows to send him to jail.
Media holds him guilty. Activists demand his resignation. Sesha’s supporters in social media desert him. Above all, their daughter suspects Sesha and walks out of the house.
What will Mythili do? Accept the mounting evidence against him and hold him guilty? Or rely on her unassailable faith in her husband and wait for a miracle to save him?
Her response to the challenge sets her apart.
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About the Book
Educated, young, no-nonsense bearing, able administrator—these are the qualities that won Sesha the loyalties of the people after three years of rule as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. An allegation that he was the mastermind behind the murder of 73 Kannadigas threatens to bring him down but he is miraculously saved in the 11th hour. Even before he can relish his victory, Sesha is slapped with the charge of sexually offending a young nurse. This time round, the case is strong and his supporters are uncertain. Worse, his teenage daughter calls him 'vile' and walks out of the house. While Mythili, his wife promises her full support, her secretive activities—undertaken with the help of a retired cop—is a cause of concern for Sesha. Will Zarina, the human-rights activist, succeed in bringing him down? What about the insinuations of a celebrity lawyer that he is casteist and antiminorities? When the young nurse is found dead, the case becomes even more complex. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? And who is the mastermind?
About the Author
Hariharan Iyer is a finance professional based in Dar es Salaam. Not content with just a rewarding corporate job, he took to writing a couple of years back. He blogged on media and current affairs for a year at valadyviews.blogspot.com before hitting on the idea for this novel. An idea so powerful that it convinced the accountant in him that he could put together not just a balance sheet but an intriguing political thriller as well. He has definite views on politics, NGOs and media ethics and has tried to package them in the form of an interesting novel.
Hariharan lives with his wife in Dar es Salaam while his two sons are pursuing their ambitions in India.
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