Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Tattooed Fakir

Good concept.....but a dis-balanced output. Presenting my views on The Tattooed fakir by Biman Nath.

Here is the summary of the book:

Northern Bengal; late eighteenth century. The new colonial rulers face an unlikely army of fakirs and sannyasis. At the same time, a few indigo plantations have come up in the countryside. The French keep a low profile, and even indulge in indigo trade espionage. A young woman – Roshanara – is kidnapped by the village zamindar. The British sahib, owner of the indigo plantation, intervenes, but then takes her as his own mistress. She is not, however, any local woman – she is a fakir’s daughter. Her fakir father and her husband Asif go to Majnu Shah’s band of fakirs to plead for help in getting her back. Asif feels nothing is left for him in the village and joins the fakirs, training in the use of weapons and ammunition, skirmishing with them up and down the country, but pining, always, for his Roshanara. Years later, in an oddly fated rescue mission he ends up, not with her, but with her son – Roshan – who evolves into a ferocious fakir soldier, tattooed and insecure about his identity. A spare, elegant rendition of an era from the margins of history, The Tattooed Fakir underlines helplessness and rage, of the powerful and the powerless alike.

My second Indian lit by modern writer - my first ever signed copy I won from a contest by the publishers and i'm sorely disappointed. I'm saddened by the fact that it is evident that the authors come up with such great concepts but when the time comes to execute that idea they miss by a major hiccup. That is the case of  how this book suffers big time and I definitely did not expect it from an acclaimed author like Mr. Nath (sorry I don't want to sound harsh but I endeavor to present it all honestly; will contain spoilers though)

Divided into three parts and set in the time of the early periods of the British rule in northern Bengal. This is the story of Asif whose is taken to the Indigo estate to safeguard her against the evil eyes of the village zamindar....but things go downhill when the Indigo planter, an English man, MacLean intervenes and takes her as his mistress. So no idea where to go and get help from Asif joins the fakirs in a bid to revolt and somehow rescue his wife. And that is where it begins to deteriorate for the story.

I'll say it again the only positive point of this book is it concept and the way the author depicts the notions of exile, revolt against the British, and the segregation of society into the rural and the urban folks. But let me now point out he factors that deteriorate the story. It should have been a revenge specific story. Asif's wife is taken but after a few initial chapters it all goes stale and drag. Asif lacks the vigor, sure he is a lowly farmer but should have shown much more determination instead he joins the fakirs, delaying the inevitable....even goes far as being sent to Tipu Sultan to learn rocket tech. Then there is the constant POV changes, alternating so much could have sustained a balanced; there are many books out there that use alternating POVs but still managed a balance. The characterization is also done badly.

Last and the most important the title itself. This book is titled Tattooed Fakir....but their is no sign of the titular character until the final divide of this book. Which is the biggest negative point of the book. Either you expect the titular character the illegitimate child of Roshanara and MacLean to be present since the beginning, maybe appear almost midway but he becomes the focus at the end and even he is lack luster. The tattoed fakir should have at least attained a strong presence (physical, ethereal .... or whatever) but sadly it missed on that front too. Finally the ending itself was just hurried as if the author just somehow needed a way to end it. I'm truly sorry but I didn't like it at all.

"Honestly this book needs a well deserved polish"

Genre :      Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan India

My Copy Courtesy of Pan Macmillan India's "Take Action Week" contest.

Rate:              1/5 (Didn't Like It)


  1. Too bad! That could have been so much more interesting. Indian culture is so fascinating.

    (If you want a story set around the same time in India under the Tipu Sultan, try Sharpe's Tiger. It's from the British perspective, but I enjoyed it. I've got a review of it at http://moonlit-librarian.blogspot.com/2012/09/cover-to-cover-commuting-sharpes-tiger.html)

    1. i totally agree....it could have been much better.

      and thanks for the suggestion i'll check it out



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