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Banquet on the Dead

Book Review:Banquet on the Dead

Book: Banquet on the Dead

Author: Sharath Komarraju

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

First of all I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sharath for getting his second novel published within a span of six months. I was fortunate enough that Blogadda selected me to review his first book ‘Murder at Amravati’ but this time it was Sharath’s friendly gesture that he himself asked me to review his second one, ‘Banquet on the Dead’. I would apologize for the slight delay in the review as I was caught up with things. I have read the book thoroughly, infact slower than my usual pace of reading and I will try to be as honest as possible and do justice with the review of this Murder Mystery.

For me personally the cover page doesn’t have much significance this time, as was not the case with ‘Murder at Amravati’. As you flip two pages Sharath has dedicated the book to ‘Lakshmibai’ his father’s maternal grandmother. In the prologue we are introduced to two characters, Nagesh and Ashok, who are labourers employed to do the job on a particular day at the mansion where the whole story revolves. The prologue has their version of what they have heard while they were busy working at or around 1 pm on the day in question.

Just like ‘Murder in Amravati’, ‘Banquet on the Dead’ is also set in a small town, Hanamkonda. The story begins with Valmiki Nagarajan, the inspector in charge of the case, and Dr. Koteshwar Rao engrossed in a discussion where Dr. Koteshwar requests the inspector to have a re-look at the case. The story is all about the death of Kauveramma, whose dead body was recovered from the well which was within the same enclosure of the mansion. Everyone including the inspector believed that she has committed a suicide and was about to close the case. But it was Dr. Koteshwar, grandson of Kauveramma, who kept on persisting that he thinks otherwise. Dr. Koteshwar recommends Hamid Pasha, an unlikely ‘Hero’, to Nagarajan in his pursuit to find the murderer.

Nagarajan with his assistant, Hamid Pasha, sets out on unravelling the truth and to find out who the actual murderer is? All the suspects in the story are relatives of Kauveramma with more or less the same motive – ‘Money’. Many a times in the story there is mention of the huge property that kauveramma possessed and everyone who was living in that manor wanted a piece of it, if not the whole. The stand out thing in the story is although being a part of a joint family, most of the members simply hated others. Ironically as you read on you will get a feel that majority of them actually disliked Kauveramma and in one way or the other they wished her to be no more. The story has a lot of characters (suspects) and I will restrain myself from mentioning them and their relation with the diseased. Everyone had a motive and most of them had the means to commit the crime, it all rests on the duos (Nagarajan and Hamid Pasha) shoulders to unveil the murderer. Do they successfully do it, to find out read the book?

I must praise Sharath here in the way he brings out the most miniscule of details about a particular setting and even if one has not been to that place, he/she can very easily visualize how it all looks. The same is the case with the mansion in which most of the story takes place. There is a very vivid description of the mansion and the details are very well taken care of as one gets sucked into the story as if he/she is actually living the story. The diction is plain and simple and is a fast read. The build up to the climax of the book is good. Every time it keeps you guessing who according to you is the murderer.

This time I noticed more negative than positives, I am sorry Sharath but I am trying to be as honest as possible. The book with its 260 pages is way too long compared to most of the Indian fictions that are in the market these days. It becomes a drag in the middle and you have to be patient enough to reach the end. According to me, one of the major flaws in the story is the number of characters that are dished out. You need to make a mental map of the characters and how each of them is related to Kauveramma. By the time you reach the middle of the book, it becomes very difficult to remember just by the name that how was this character related to her. If one has read ‘Murder at Amravati’ he/she will find striking similarities between both the books, like the way Sharath has dealt with the investigation. Because of the build up, you gear up yourself for a shocking or surprising ending but if you want my take on it; you will be disappointed. Unlike ‘Murder in Amravati’ where it had an awesome twist right at the end, ‘Banquet on the Dead’ won’t serve you that.

This banquet instead of turning out to be a great feast it turns out to be an ordinary supper. One suggestion for Sharath, try some other genre also otherwise it won’t be long before people cast you as a stereotype. If I had to rate this, I would go with two and half out of five for Sharath Komarraju’s ‘Banquet on the Dead’.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

You can also reach to Sharath Komarraju at sharathkomarraju.com

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The Last STEP…

The Last STEP…

Ting tong …. Ting tong….it was the doorbell, my sister who was busy uploading photographs on facebook from her friend’s birthday party last night shouted out ,”mummy, can you check who’s there at the door?” “Han Han beta, main to tumhare baap ki naukar hoon na!!” was mom’s reply….as she was busy preparing dinner. Ting tong…..Ting tong….Now, my sister was getting on my mom’s nerves….she knew that mom gets irritated very easily and I don’t know why but she always did this for fun.

Mom washed her hands off in a hurry. She came to the living room where Nidhi (my sister) had already begun the process of tagging her friends in the pics she had just uploaded. Mom had an angry look on her face and Nidhi……..as usual had a smile to tease her a bit. Mom glanced at the wall clock…it was 6 o’clock in the evening. She murmured to herself ,’who that might be’…but my ever-so-active sister heard her….and said ,”Dekho Geeta aunty to nahi aa gayi fir se tumhe kisi kirtan pe invite karne”. Geeta aunty is our neighbor, who always had one or two reason to borrow our mom from us…. Mom was furious now……..but….Ting tong.

It was indeed Geeta aunty at the door but this time, to my mom’s surprise, with a worrying look on her face……tears started rolling down her cheeks…..my mom’s expressions changed from irritated to worried…..a bit more tense. She held my mom’s hand and took her out of the apartment. They reached the ground floor…..and ….what mom saw made her scream ……scream…..scream…..and she fainted.

Two weeks ago…..

I was very eagerly waiting for my MBA results. It was supposed to be announced today by 5 pm. I was nervous to the point that it seemed the clock has stopped……I looked for the 50th time at the clock in the past 30 mins…… and was really getting tired of refreshing the result page. It was down because of overload. I was dying to see my results as I had given everything this time around ….. my career, time, money….everything…..i had resigned from my job a month back….and had no other options left to do. It was my last hope…

Suddenly the green lines on the progress bar started increasing……I closed my eyes…prayed …..and …..it was only 75 percentile……yes it was only 75 percentile….i could not believe it…..the amount of effort , the way my exam went …. I was pretty sure to score above 95 percentile and get admission to a decent college….but destiny , fate ,  god  whatever you may call it……had another plans. I was devastated and completely broke.

The present …..but a few minutes ago….

Climbing the stairs to my roof ……I thought to myself …. What next to do Mr. Overconfident……..Mr Ass****…..you put everything on the line …everything. I sat on the water tank of our apartment…..the view from there was truly mesmerizing. The sun setting in the background…small kids playing in the lawns… ladies gossiping … Men returning from work.

But there was something unique that day… the scene was too perfect as if I was watching a movie. I was suddenly noticing every minute detail that was there to be seen. The whole scenery made me forget what I was thinking… yes yes … I remember…what next…this was the only thing that overburdened my mind for the past two weeks… My life had suddenly become blank… i had nowhere to go…

Slowly and slowly I began to realize that I am nothing but 25 years of failures n failures… I was a COMPLETE LOSER… I realized that how I had never made my parents proud of myself… one or two consolations prizes here n there… thats it… i lost my only love last year… my parents were divorced… and I could not do anything about it. The only thing … the only hope that kept my mom alive was … that… someday she’ll see her son standing tall and successful… but I failed her too… i had failed everyone in my life…

I sat there and saw the sun setting on my life… by now the wind had a nervous feel to it… my palms became moist… my heart sank… I stood up… went to the edge of the building… took my mom’s name… closed my eyes… saw her face and took the LAST STEP……

By the time I made contact with the ground…my whole life flashbacked. The next thing I realized was …i was lying in a pool of blood… I could see the bone of my thigh tore my muscle and skin and came out… i could not feel any of my limbs … realizing that this was my last… i took one last breathe…saw my Goddess… my mother, screaming my name…and everything blacked out…..

For all those who have been successful,

For all those who have seen failure,

For all those who have won,

For all those who have lost,

For all those who want to win,

For all those who still have hope

And

For all those who will SUCCEED….

Its not a GOODBYE,

But it’s a GOOD BYE….aur han never think of taking this step.

MANAS “SAMEER” MUKUL