So it was a big release in the month of April for Ashwin Sanghi. The release had it all- well you know the way bestselling authors do it. The grand launch at the Jaipur Lit Fest, a Bollywood styled book trailer, and of course full page advertisements in almost all local newspapers. Hmmm I do wonder… Does Ashwin Sanghi really needs such large scale promotions? He already has a couple of best sellers up his sleeve and is considered as India’s best-selling conspiracy fiction writers. Forbes India has included him in their Celebrity 100 list.
From Rozabel Line, Chanakya’s Chant, and The Krishna Key to the latest Sialkot Saga…Sanghi has sure come a long way. I have read the earlier three books, where there is a seamless inter-twining of historical episodes with fantasy and fiction.
But “The Sialkot Saga” comes as a big disappointment, failing to deliver a similar magic.
The story begins in Amritsar. It’s the time of partition between India and Pakistan. In a railway station a constable saves a small boy from under a pile of dead bodies in that last train which traveled from Sialkot. The narration quickly shifts to King Asoka’s court, where the discussion concerns preserving a secret. This secret travels through different periods and different kingdoms, eventually blending in with the key protagonists- Arbaaz Sheikh and Arvind Bagadia
Arvind is the son of a rich Calcutta based business man. He is ambitious and hungry for money and power. Nothing can stop him and with his razor sharp thinking he makes his move to earn those big bucks. He wouldn’t hesitate to deceive or lie. All that he cares for is success, and money. A failed love affair sure does break his heart, but instead of brooding about, he focuses on his ambition, pushing every bit to get to the top. Arbaaz on the other hand is the son of a poor man. When he loses his father, Arbaaz picks up his job as a laborer at the docks in Mumbai. As a petty thief, he associates himself with a local don Abdul Dada, eventually becoming his most trusted one and then his successor. But soon Arbaaz and Arvind’s paths meet. They meet to clash. Their egos inter-twined, ready to over throw the other. Yet they pick themselves up, to get ahead of the other.
So who amongst them emerges victorious? What’s the outcome of their clash? Do they have any other link apart from the rivalry? That’s Sialkot Saga – a business thriller – of politics, betrayal, revenge, heart breaks and ancient secrets.
I liked the story narrated across different timelines from the era of partition in 1947 to the more recent 9/11 attacks and the Mumbai 26/11 strikes. Great research has been done by Sanghi and the events have been seamlessly integrated with the characters and story. Sanghi indeed has a powerful storyline here with perfect etching of the characters- Arbaaz and Arvind– both with similarities galore yet differences that are distinct.
Yet despite this, I did find it over stretched in most parts. Besides, the historical sub pots, made no sense, thrust in-between chapters. In fact I felt the novel would have been far better without historical links of Ashoka’s nine men. It seemed to have been linked just for the sake of it.
Sometimes it is not just the story that makes a bestseller. One of the basic things readers expect form a bestselling author is to avoid errors, something as basic as editing. I sure did overlook a few typographical errors but here is one that I just could not and had to point it out. Flip through to page 341-342 of the book. The paragraphs speak about Abhilasha the wife of Arvind Bagadia. As you read through the paragraphs, you notice the use of the name Paromita (wife of Arbaaz) in the place of Abhilasha!!
So the thumbs up is for:
- The powerful characterisation that’s perfectly etched out.
The timeline from 1947 to present day seamlessly woven with storyline.
- Editing errors in more than one place.
- Overstretched narration could get you to yawn, well may be doze off too. Could have been crisper.
- Historical references dating back 2000 years seemed out of place.
Verdict: The Sialkot Saga is not one of Ashwin Sanghi’s great books. It comes as a disappointment in comparison to his earlier books such as Rozabel Line and Chanakya’s Chant. Read it if you desire a brush up of your history lessons!
About the Author:
Ashwin Sanghi is counted among India’s highest-selling English ﬁction authors. 13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck is his foray into the world of non-ﬁction. Ashwin is the author of three bestsellers—The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key. In addition he has co-authored a crime thriller, Private India, along with James Patterson, the world’s highest-selling writer. Ashwin’s books have sold in lakhs and have been translated into many languages. He was included by Forbes India in their Celebrity India 100 Rankings and was the recipient of the Crossword Popular Choice Award. Ashwin was educated in Mumbai, at the Cathedral & John Connon School and St. Xavier’s College. He also holds a Masters degree in business from Yale. Ashwin lives in Mumbai with his wife Anushika and his son Raghuvir.