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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Review: Race Course Road by Seema Goswami

A complex and racy political thriller involving family drama, vendetta and a warring media

books Updated: Feb 08, 2019 18:37 IST
Manira Chaudhary
Manira Chaudhary
Hindustan Times
Arjun Rampal plays the scion of a political family in Prakash Jha’s film, Rajneeti (2010)
Arjun Rampal plays the scion of a political family in Prakash Jha’s film, Rajneeti (2010)

A dead dead prime minister, a divided family, a dirty game of power, a controversy over an arms deal, and a slowly unravelling conspiracy behind the Prime Minister’s assassination: this is what Seema Goswami’s book, Race Course Road, is about.

Set in the aftermath of a fictional Prime Minister Birendra Pratap Singh’s murder, this thriller plays out in the political powerhouse of the country, which gives the book its title –– the residence of the prime minister of India. While the eldest son of the deceased leader, Karan Pratap Singh, struggles to keep the government afloat even as he experiences gnawing disappointment at the slow investigation into his father’s murder, the family faces another challenge.

Asha Devi, the late prime minister’s daughter from his second wife, is back in the country from exile in London. She had been banished there by her father to keep the salivating media away from her life of wild partying. She is a force to reckon with but the realisation evades even her. Her half-brothers have never considered her a part of their family.

That she is a natural at campaigning and has inherited her father’s deft sense of politics only aggravates their grudge against her. The book , then, successfully narrates the drama of family politics circulating within the three bungalows on Race Course Road where the country’s first family lives.

Though the action seems a little slow in the first chapter, giving the reader the feeling that she has encountered this scenario before, the pace does pick up. Indeed, the experience is almost akin to watching a Prakash Jha film – the raw edge of a nation’s politics, the familiarity with the texture of realpolitik, and the resemblance of certain incidents in the book with actual events.

Race Course Road takes you on a roller-coaster ride through Indian politics. From scams to intriguing characters, the reader will often recall which incidents and people the episodes are loosely based on –– whether it is Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Arnab Goswami or Rajiv Gandhi. The similarities almost scream out.

Towards the end, the reader is able to draw clear parallels with the real story of a strong woman leader who changed the political course of the country. Surprisingly, all this makes the story more enjoyable. Beyond the jaded dance of politics, the occasionally ugly face of the media is also explored. Given that the author is a senior journalist, it isn’t surprising that the book convincingly presents how some media personalities manage the decibel level and the tenor of public discourse.

A family feud, corruption, betrayals, a hung government, muckraking among political parties, and a sex scandal –– Race Course Road definitely has all the ingredients that appeal to fans of political fiction.

Manira Chaudhary is an independent multimedia journalist based in New Delhi.



Race Course Road

by Seema Goswami

Publisher: Aleph

Pages: 285

Price: Rs 599

First Published: Feb 08, 2019 18:37 IST