Author Braham Singh says research and feverish imagination helped him write his successful book
Author Braham Singh’s debut novel, Bombay Swastika, is “a work of fiction built around true events”, moving between 1935 Berlin, 1948 Karachi and 1965 Bombay. While the book is a bestseller, Singh is already raring to write four more!Updated: Feb 18, 2018 15:38 IST
As Nazi Berlin is gearing up for its Final Solution, a German Jew named Ernst Steiger accidentally finds himself caught up in the murder of a young tribal in an American compound in the Bombay of 1964 — that’s the Bombay Swastika for you. Author Braham Singh’s thriller, his debut novel, “is a work of fiction built around true events”.
He illustrates his point: “There was this Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who ended up in Bombay. True story. I took it and blew it out of proportion, the narrative shifting between 1935 Berlin and 1964 Bombay. In Berlin, the story revolves around the Jewish Hospital in Wedding, a Berlin suburb. There, in what simply has to be one of the strangest facts about World War II, a whole community of Jews were left alive by the Nazis in the hospital compound, allowed to live normally, even as millions of Jews were being killed all around them, across Europe. Even in Berlin, people don’t know about this.”
To write a book that has a “multi-layered plot across different geographies and time periods”, as well as characters (for instance there is a Jew, then a Muslim, and a Sindhi), the 52-year-old dedicated himself to months of research. “I love research. That, plus a feverish imagination and no telling where one may end up... Just coming to grips with the Jewish Hospital and weaving it into the plot took months. One had to be dead accurate about locations in 1935 Berlin, 1948 Karachi and 1965 Bombay,” he says.
Besides the hospital and camps, the novel also “tackles the Indian nuclear programme and why Dr Homi Bhabha’s plutonium reprocessing plant never took off. Then there’s tantric Krishna bhakti, because in my story, by 1964, the German Jew had gone Hindu and become an acolyte of the tantric Sahajiya sect of Bengal. Studying this Vaishnavite group and understanding the depth and profoundness of their belief, was an experience”, says the US-based telecommunication professional, who has a “penchant for history, travel and action”, like some of his favourite writers, such as Khushwant Singh, Gore Vidal, Paul Theroux, Martin Cruz Smith, and Adam Johnson.
The book, published by Om Books International, is already a bestseller, but Singh has busied himself with his next, without making much of the success of his first. “I’ve been waiting to write a novel all my life. Now that Bombay Swastika is done, four more are eating away at me,” says Singh. “And once I work my way through them, there will probably be four more. I am doomed to write. It appears to be the only thing I do somewhat well,” adds the author, who credits his wife for “making sure that I didn’t become a hippie doing lines on some beach”.
First Published: Feb 18, 2018 15:38 IST