Socialite, novelist and columnist Shobha De, explores the vicious nexus between politics and business in her new novel, Sethji. De chronicles the travails of an ageing politician on the terra-firma of political life in Delhi. She uses fiction to explore power equations, for the first time.
“Do not be very upright in your dealings for you would see by going to the forest, that straight trees are cut down while crooked ones are left standing.” The opening line indicates that the reader is about to plummet to the depths of murky politics. Sethji, the slimy protagonist with dubious morals, heads a political outfit – which happens to be an indispensable coalition partner of the government. His opportunistic and sensual daughter-in-law Amrita (whose character holds the entire narrative), is the master strategist, who guards Sethji's political and personal secrets. Meanwhile, two of the country’s most powerful men team up to destroy Sethji. With the help of Amrita, the crafty old politician fights against all odds for his survival. Brimming with characters (who bear an uncanny resemblance with real people), the novel reveals the dark underbelly of national politics.
As always, De writes in easy readable prose, and does a remarkable job in essaying the vagaries of power with her fictional brush.
Considering that politics is not really captivating the minds of the young, I wonder how many readers will enjoy Sethji. But only Shobha can make stories so riveting, that you even end up enjoying political fiction – though you might detest political reality.