[Possible spoilers ahead!]
The reason I keep going back to read Sharath Komarraju’s books is his exceptional description skills. His words have a knack of transporting you into the scene almost immediately. His wonderful insights into the workings of the mind, especially a woman’s, leave me spellbound. At one place, he says, “She wondered if it was the woman inside her that made her worry so. Did she always have to have something to think about, something to fret and brood over?”
Is there a truer description of womanhood and the restlessness that comes with it? I don’t think so.
Murder in Amaravati is a book whose gist and just the first few pages give you your first suspicions about the identity of the murder. But boy, oh, boy, are you wrong!
Before delving into the intricacies of dissecting Komarraju’s brilliance yet again, here are some quotes from the book that will ring true with scores of people everywhere.
“What makes these once perennial rivers dry up every year in the summers? Is it a rebellion against the growing poison in the hearts of people?”
“Unbidden, they returned. They came all at once, and though Venkat Reddy was faintly aware of flashes of useful information in the sea of noise that invaded him, they were lost before he could grab them.” [How often are we left clambering over the edge of dreams and reality to get a grip over ourselves?]
“A whole had to be greater than the sum of its parts. If it wasn’t, it simply wasn’t built well enough.”
“One problem with being an optimist is that you tend to think that the good times will last forever.”
The author puts forth a number of life’s bitter truths: the glaring disparity in opinion, one’s natural callousness towards someone they loathe, ego and its inappropriate timing in coming forth – a reality of life, quelling the ego – seemingly impossible yet necessary, unexpected occurrences crashing through your day, curiosity robbing you of your precious sleep and rest, childhood friendships straying away into oblivion, people changing as they grow up, and how even the best of people can stray from righteousness.
The book, in small bites, describes subtly the effect that parents have on children, by interacting with them, talking to them, and thus molding them into what they will one day become.
Murder in Amaravati also reiterates certain other truths: like how every action has a reason behind it, the cruelty of loneliness – driving people to do what they would never do otherwise, how easily lies can be told to wheedle information out of someone; either to keep their heart in one piece, or for your own personal gains, and the inherent possessiveness of parents, of siblings, of family, that comes out when we are at our most vulnerable.
The author demonstrates every nuance of every emotion admirably.
The book has the power to invoke in you, thoughts and conjectures, giving your mind some sort of an exercise. It has just a dash of history, secrets, tragedy, shocking revelations, sorrow, and a million reminiscences and emotions that brim unchecked – reminiscences of a bad childhood in all its innocent glory of regrets and childish doubts. The book reflects the relationship that siblings share – a fierce love under all the fights and resentment. And when you realize what the author is getting at, after all the little kittens turning into one big messy cat out of the bag, you can’t help but be impressed.
The character who is investigating the case, Venkat Reddy, the head constable is a novice at investigation who thinks that he is ill-suited to do the job. He is trying hard to make out if what appears to the eye is exactly what it is. But he eventually eases into a Hercule Poirot-like role.
The book alternates quite smoothly and perfectly between different points of view while giving the reader the suspense – a suspense that is multiplied due to the slight illusions and expressions – that frustratingly elusive information that clinks into place, making perfect sense while still hidden, and the exultation and shock of finding out the answers!
The book slyly includes the issues of casteism (ill-treatment of Dalits) and bias (how a village hostess gets the short end of the stick). Just one single paragraph makes you reevaluate your definition of beauty. A few lines of description of an idol of Goddess Kali gives you goosebumps. The book makes you think of the thin line between the acceptance of right and wrong.
And most important of all, the book is a jumbled list of all the reasons why one holds a deep-rooted resentment towards anything or anyone in life, or life itself. This list and the realization of its importance, is eye-opening.
All in all, Murder in Amaravati has the power to make you cry with its strong portrayal of emotions. It has brilliant twists all along! Gets your pulse racing, makes you gasp, and makes you stare at the pages in awe. The one phrase that left me as I finished the book was “Oh, brilliant!”
I am a huge fan of Sharath Komarraju’s work. The way he puts together events and incidents and weaves them into stories with reasons, are incredibly excellent. And Murder in Amaravati lists among those of his books that I absolutely love. And I am glad that I picked the book.
No wonder Murder in Amaravati was long-listed for the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.