There are clues even on the cover. Splattered blood dripping down the side, a violent red sari, a wheelchair and a woman; these are central to Ashok Banker’s new thriller Blood Red Sari.
The first of his Kali quartet, Blood Red Sari is filled with wild imagery and begins in the first person. One of the protagonists (you don’t get to find out who, but can foster a guess) is performing Kali Puja to the goddess in Kolkata in gratitude. She calls Kali a “repository of all feminine power” and goes on to explain how the Trimurthi of the Vedic pantheon (Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma) combined “the evanescence of a thousand suns and the spiritual strength of the great sage Katyayana” to give birth to Kali. And then the chase begins.
Banker introduces his protagonists and the cities they are tied to with the rich descriptions that his writing is known for. Anita, a private investigator from Kerala, recalls spending her childhood vacations in an untainted Karkidakam with her friend Lalima. (Banker hints at Anita being a lesbian). This place is later overrun by “hordes of the Undead” (tourists) who made the beach dirty. She snaps out of her reverie when her brother tells her Lalima is dead.