Book Review – The Sialkot Saga

Published July 31, 2016 by vishalvkale

Image result for the sialkot saga 
The Sialkot Saga is a story built around two scoundrels, two ruffians of the highest order – one masquerading as a gentleman, and the other openly rebellious and criminal. This is an ugly book, a hands on look at the ugly underbelly of life, a brutal no-holds-barred ugly account of greed, crime  -white collar as well as of the other kind, selfishness of a very high order, desire and naked ambition all rolled into one single story
Arvind Bagadia – Love him, you cant. Hate him, you can – and very very easily. Sympathise with him – negative, no way. Avoid him – impossible. The quintessential anti-hero
Arbaaz Sheikh – Love him – you cant; sympathise? Yes, in a manner of sorts. Tough guy, a man life has given a sour deal to start with – a man who chooses the wrong path in rebellion… and becomes, like Arvind, a complete bastard
Abdul Dada – Gansgter, Loves only money – and loyalty. And Arbaaz; but then Arbaaz has earned him bushelfuls of money, and with extreme loyalty too.
That’s it. This is a story of two characters – sure there are others, but they don’t matter except Abdul Dada. This is the story of two people and two people only, the rest are only fillers who take up space, flesh out the story and provide momentum and some form of continuity to this cleverly put-together story; beyond that, they have little import in the overall scenario and the story, neither do they have any large function to perform in furthering the story.
There isn’t any; period. There is no coherent plot as it is commonly understood; that is not to state the book is bad – or it isn’t readable; it just has no plot. The plot is – in one line – the life story of two criminals – one a reprehensible conman who should be in jail for somewhere around 100000 years if our penal code and human lifespan allows; and the other a tragic story of a poor man from a poor family gone bad, and into big crime – a man who should be hanged, or at least put away for a very long time indeed.
People come and go, get used, but the story is nothing but a patchwork – a very skillfully and adroitly crafted patchwork of individual capers of two complete bastards. Sure, the book back uses the euphemism “businessmen of a kind” – make no mistake – you have a story of two people as completely evil as it has ever been the misfortune of mine to ever read in fiction print. Reprehensible and completely disgusting characters to the core.
First, the good. For a story that has no definable and clear plot line, this is a top book – eminently readable, fast paced and rapid. This is good for a read or two, or on a journey – and you  will not regret buying it, although the price-point is a tad on the higher side for a book of its quality – Rs. 350 just doesn’t quite justify the contents. I would plumb for a price-point of around Rs. 200 – 225; at that price – this is a good buy.
The author, despite not managing to craft powerful characters in this book, has nonetheless managed to deeply embed two of them in our minds, very skillfully creating the right atmosphere around each character. This is clearly by design – he has, it seems to me, consciously downplayed all for the benefit of the two {or three} main characters. The other characters merely accentuate the principal ones, and add to their background and character-graph.
The story is a patchwork on independent unconnected events spread across years and decades; this is not a book that you will miss putting down for a day, and would easily continue after a gap, missing nothing. There is precious little connectivity and continuity between events; you can even start in the middle somewhere on your second read, and would miss nothing. The biggest drawback in this is that you don’t really get a feel of the years passing, the timeline seems patchy. The plus is that this has been skillfully woven such that it isn’t a major irritant.
Of the two characters, you can readily sympathise with Arbaaz, given his background of penury, and the bullying he undergoes; but his response to the bullying – right from childhood – show his evil streak. His further deeds completely strip away any sympathy for him… Arvind – he just is pure evil, with no redeeming quality that I could relate to. He is one complete bastard, and that is that. This is a book that has no heroes, and no punishments for evil deeds and crime – crime pays here, and big time. That is my main grouse with this book – that is why I dock it two stars from the 3-3.5 it richly deserves, and rate it at 1 star or 1.5 stars tops. I don’t think we need such books that extoll these anti-heroes, but that is purely my opinion!

The main point about the book is complete incongruousness of the title, and its near-total lack of relevance to the real story, and a feeble attempt to link it to some ancient  stuff which has not been thought through properly and seems half-baked. The fact is that the story would have been equally good by entirely removing the whole sections of the ancient stuff, and the Sialkot connection. The story would have lost nothing, given that there is precisely zero relevance, in my opinion! 

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