Of godmen, Emergency and mercy petitions!

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New Delhi, May 24: A young man facing a death sentence for a petty murder uses the trial to ask uncomforting questions on the country's affairs and instead of mercy he seeks the President’s help to prove his innocence.

This is the story of journalist-turned branding expert Sriram Karri's debut novel "Autobiography of a Mad Nation," which was long listed for the MAN Asian Literary Prize in 2009 and published recently.

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The book begins with the angry rant of protagonist Vikrant Vaidya, "I was born in a mentally retarded nation."

Facing the death sentence for killing his teenage neighbour Iqbal, he challenges the outgoing President to help him prove his innocence instead of mercy, writing, "Have you read Catcher in the Rye Mr President?"

The President, who is about to demit office, asks super-sleuth and old friend M Vidyasagar (Sagar) Sagar to privately investigate if Vaidya is innocent or not. As he proceeds with his probe, Sagar finds godmen, cricketers, politicians, journalists, gunmen, war heroes, and film directors getting irredeemably linked in his investigation.

The investigation unfolds a large-canvas saga woven around political murders, built on fixing presidential pardons.

The book, published by Fingerprint, has a narrative that springs forth from and weaves its way through the Emergency, anti-Sikh riots post Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Ram Janmabhoomi Rath Yatra, anti-Mandal Commission protests, economic liberalisation, Babri Masjid demolition, and Godhra riots.

As it touches all these subjects, the basic question the book seeks to answer is whether India is a truly mad nation? Karri says the characters of his novel are both real and imagined.

In "Autobiography of a Mad Nation," history, personal friendships, love for a nation and belief in its values, sense of great literature, fight against censorship, passion for ideas, and a zeal for unforgettable characters and dialogue fuse.

PTI

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