It took him 11 years to write the book, reveals Shovon Chowdhary, but when he goes on to describe its contents, it’s apparent that the author might have needed the time to chalk out the details of the events as they would unfold at the Centre.
In conversation with critic Deepanjana Pal at the recent Chandigarh Literature Festival, Shovon had the audience in splits as he talked about the various characters of his novel, The Competent Authority. The book has two parallel stories running, involving mostly a corrupt Delhi policeman, the all-powerful corporate bodies that have the CBI and bureaucrats appeasing them and a boy named Pintoo, amongst others. The enemy here is China, by the way, and not the Maoists, for a change. The reason for choosing the Chinese government was simple, says Shovon. “I hadn’t researched enough about the Maoists.” Not to mention, China’s power has been underestimated, he adds.
There is also a mention of Al-Qaeda, which the author explains. “I was surprised at how corporate the Al-Qaeda is! You wouldn’t believe, the members send each other e-mails for availing leave travel allowance, prepare power point presentations and so on. So, it had to be in the book,” he says, as the audience bursts into laughter.
Over the period of 11 years of writing the novel, Shovon admits there were numerous changes made to the drafts, dictated by events and happenings in India. Nevertheless, he seems to have rightly
forecast the controversies that the country is embroiled in, such as the multiple scams rocking the Centre. “You could say that I imagined what would happen,” he candidly confesses.
Most importantly, Shovon is asked why he chose to laugh over matters of such gravity.
“I think as Indians, we lack the ability to laugh at things and at ourselves. The news channels these days are emitting news of one disaster after another, making most people turn their attention away. But, when you put things in a humourous perspective, at least you’ll look at the matters,” he explains.