by Rabeea Saleem
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Viking (March 22, 2016)
“The Khuranas, in the past few years, had started taking a morbid interest in blasts in all parts of the country, especially Delhi – they were excited by these bombings in a way that only victims of esoteric, infrequent tragedies are motivated by horrors.”
Karan Mahajan’s latest book begins with a 1996 bombing in Delhi, India at a crowded marketplace, Lajpat Nagar. In the violence-riddled world of South Asia, the significance of a calamity is only as big as its magnitude. Every tragedy is relative to its body count and so in the grander scheme of things, this bombing is referred to as “a bomb of small consequences”. It still kills hundreds but because of the low profile site, it doesn’t get as much traction from media as say, the Boston bombing, which, because of its location alone supersedes dozens of small bombs that go off in third world countries at a frighteningly high frequency.
This bombing results in the death of Tushar and Nakul, the only children of the Khuranas. They had gone with their best friend, Mansoor, who is significantly a Muslim, to collect an old television from the repair shop. This detail is something which later the Khuranas are compelled to lie about to maintain their middle-class status because admitting this act of scrimping to their upper caste friends would indulge their sympathies in a way they didn’t want. Mahajan homes in on how important it is to maintain the ego-driven financial status in middle-class society, even when faced with such a potent grief.