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Authors: Tarun J. Tejpal

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The Story of My Assassins

PRAISE FOR
THE STORY OF MY ASSASSINS

“Deeply humane, raucously funny, dizzy with social and psychological insight! A masterful account of 21
st
-century ambition, inequality, and power from one of India’s most fearless writers.”


KATHERINE BOO, AUTHOR OF
BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS: LIFE, DEATH AND HOPE IN A MUMBAI UNDERCITY

“Tarun Tejpal is clever and inventive. In the profoundest way he writes for India”


V.S. NAIPAUL, WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE

“Overlooked in the general rush to adore
The White Tiger
and
Slumdog Millionaire
 … with a much richer understanding of the politics of poverty, [
The Story of My Assassins
] deserves wider attention.”


HARI KUNZRU, AUTHOR OF
GODS WITHOUT MEN
, IN
THE GUARDIAN’
S “BOOKS OF THE YEAR”

“One of the most attractive Indian writers in English of his generation, he writes with a great deal of raw energy, inventively employing images which are at once sad, haunting, horrendously comic and beautiful.”


THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

“Intrepidly conceived and ingeniously executed,
The Story of My Assassins
casts an intimate, often humorous, but always unflinching, eye at the squalor of modernizing India. Combining a fierce political imagination with a tender solicitude for the losers of history, it sets a new and formidably high standard in Indian writing in English.”


PANKAJ MISHRA, AUTHOR OF
AN END TO SUFFERING: THE BUDDHA IN THE WORLD

“For the awesome story it tells and the stunning impact of its prose this is, quite simply, the best Indian novel in English I have ever read.”


NAYANTARA SAHGAL, AUTHOR OF
RICH LIKE US

“An instant classic … far, far better than anything I’ve ever read by an Indian author.”


ALTAF TYREWALA, AUTHOR OF
NO GOD IN SIGHT

“Few English novels from India are as finely textured and true-to-life as
Assassins
 … The reader is seduced by the novel’s narrative voice, a smart, acerbic voice for a tough, edgy story … Tejpal is a marvellously observant writer … The novel is full of laugh-out-loud lines … The truth, revealed at the end, makes for a thoroughly satisfying read … 
Assassins
does not just entertain. It also enlightens.”


MANJUSHREE THAPA, AUTHOR OF
SEASONS OF FLIGHT

“Without doubt the best Indian book written in English. Driven in turn by stunning prose and a deep empathy with struggling India, this novel makes Aravinda Adiga’s Booker winning novel look dipped in treacle. This magnificent tome will be the India testament for many many years.”


BINOO JOHN, AUTHOR OF
THE LAST SONG OF SAVIO DE SOUZA

“Tarun Tejpal knows a lot about the dirty underbelly of the Indian state, elite and society. Combine that knowledge with a wonderful ability to spin a yarn in lyrical prose and you get an excellent novel.”


INDIAN EXPRESS

“A story masterly told … 
The Story of My Assassins
is an argument with power … Tejpal is not picnicking in the proverbial Other India … He rewrites the idea of victimhood in an India where the subterranean deceptions of power know no bounds.”


INDIA TODAY

“Superb … Interspersed with dark humour,
Assassins
is an unnervingly gripping tale on the use and abuse of power in modern-day India.”


HIMAL

“A complex page-turning plot … a commentary on power, sex, corruption and poverty.”


VERVE

“This book is a must-read … extraordinary for its portrayal of modern society … shatters any illusions we may harbour of being tolerant and just … weaves an extremely powerful plot and tells it skillfully.”


BUSINESSWORLD

PRAISE FOR
THE ALCHEMY OF DESIRE

“A fascinating analysis of 20
th
century India, a painfully accurate study of a writer in the writerly anguish of trying to write, and an endless Scheherazadian weave of stories-within-stories-within-stories—all in engaging and colourful prose, a literary crazy quilt of love, family, culture, politics and history.”


LOS ANGELES TIMES

“A bold, sensual novel about art, inspiration and the disintegration of a relationship … Tejpal’s writing is unpredictable yet strikingly disciplined, and his explorations of matters physical and spiritual point out often painful truths.”


WASHINGTON POST

“Amid the endless cascade of semi-genuine Indian novels by Indian Americans comes the real thing,
The Alchemy of Desire
, a kaleidoscopic first novel by a top Indian journalist, erotically rooted in the country.”


PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

“He has a compassionate eye and an instinctive understanding of the underprivileged, the simple and the dispossessed. The wretchedness of ordinary people’s is well caught, the tragedies, the telling detail and the convulsive changes the subcontinent has suffered over the past 60 years.”


THE SPECTATOR

“This Indian masterpiece is like a voyage down the Ganges, long and infinitely pleasurable; the only thing that worries you is getting to the end too soon.”


LE FIGARO

“The Alchemy of Desire
is anything but safe. One of its most soaring notes is its exploration of passion … As an attempt to compel readers to look at desire without the crippling impulse of shame and hypocrisy, it works beautifully. In many ways, the novel is like the man himself: gritty, unrestrained yet bound by a personal code of honour.”


THE INDEPENDENT

“Throughout, it reveals Tejpal’s eye for characterisation and description.”


THE GUARDIAN

“Sizzling, sultry … all right, sexy: Tarun J. Tejpal’s
The Alchemy of Desire
has knocked ’em dead in the rest of the English-speaking world and is now singeing eyebrows in the USA.”


SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE

“Tejpal ties the reader into a sordid tale of murderous intrigue … thrillerlike in its breathless pace … the reader will connect at a deeply personal level.”


THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL

“In
The Alchemy of Desire
, New Delhi-based journalist Tarun J. Tejpal has written a stunningly original novel.”


THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN

“Engaging and astute: he turns a clear eye on the social and political quirks, inequalities and contradictions of modern India … a lively and persistently entertaining novel.”


LITERARY REVIEW

“One can’t help but admire Tejpal’s novel … It is a shout of joy.”


THE BOSTON GLOBE

THE STORY OF MY ASSASSINS

First published in India by HarperCollins Publishers, India

Copyright © 2009, 2010 Tarun J. Tejpal

All rights reserved

First Melville House printing: September 2012

Melville House Publishing
145 Plymouth Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201

and

Unit 3 Olympia Trading Estate
Coburg Road
London, N22 6TZ

mhpbooks.com

eISBN: 978-1-61219-163-8

A catalog record is available for this book from the Library of Congress.

v3.1

For
NEENA
,
artist of generosity, my oldest friend

Contents
1
NEWS OF A KILLING

T
he morning I heard I’d been shot I was sitting in my office on the second floor looking out the big glass window at the yellow ringlets of a laburnum tree that had gone in a few days from blindingly golden to faded cream, as if washed in rough detergent. Beyond the balding tree, losing its ringlets prematurely in mid-May, the sky was blamelessly blue. In minutes it would begin to bleach and the sun would paint such a glare on it, it would be impossible to look up, even briefly, to catch the full bellies of groaning aircraft swooping down to land.

It was not yet seven in the morning.

I had slipped away early from my darkened bedroom with barely a glance at the sleeping splash of my wife, lying spreadeagled on her stomach, arms and legs akimbo, as if quashed by a giant foot. Brushing my teeth in the dining-room sink I had glanced at the weekend newspapers, full of the excitements of food and cinema, and eschewing the tea Felicia had set to brew, quietly let myself out.

The lane lay in Sunday morning stupor, not a leaf stirring in the row of gulmohurs or the lone peepul. Rambir, our night watchman, had abandoned his post and was probably sleeping in his bed-sized room or doing the stuff one has to in the morning. The only thing moving was the mongrel of the lane, foraging for discarded food in the heaped refuse in the corner. Cast in many shades of brown with a rodent’s long face, one bad eye and one bad leg, he had been christened Jeevan after the nasal, sneering Hindi film villain of the 1960s, by the cloying old uncle of C-1. The old man, Sharmaji, who cracked silly jokes with the colony children and stroked their arms slowly, would stand outside his gate and call out to the children, and
if the dog was around, he’d adopt a nasal sneer. The children, eyes averted, mostly sprinted past his house.

Before Jeevan could limp up to me, tail wagging, I rushed to the car and slammed the door shut. For four years I had successfully managed to keep from opening up a relationship with him. That was one thing I could do without.

More relationships.

At the office, the parking lot was pleasingly empty but for a plump green Bajaj scooter, battered and old—head cocked, eyes cracked—resting on its stand. Its owner was sprawled just inside the front door, on the armless sofa in the reception. When I walked in he scrambled to his feet, swaying, making a grab for his unbuttoned trousers.

I said, ‘Motherfucker Sippy, you’ve again been hitting the bottle all night!’

He said, ‘No sir yes sir no sir.’

Sippy looked like he had been masturbating himself to death for the last fifty years. He had the wasted air of stereotype—hollowed eyes and cheeks, thin strands of hair on a pigmented scalp, arms and legs of stick and the wheedling manner of someone looking for just one more rush. He was struggling to align the buttons on his trousers and find the keys to my room at the same time. I slapped his fumbling hand away from the open drawer, and reaching into the jumble of brass and steel inside, picked up my set of four long slim keys anchored to a miniature high-heeled, knee-length brown leather boot. Someone’s mad European fantasy from a foreign catalogue or film? Who, in all of India, thought up such key chains?

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