22 June, 2021

Gin and the Tonic Effect

A tragi-comic tale of strife in Delhi's closed circles strikes a fresh note

Gin and the Tonic Effect

Awful place, no?" Madhavi Iyer tells her baby as they drive into Delhi. Sagarika Ghose's The Gin Drinkers paints the city vividly as it tells of its "liquid colonialism". The warp of its violent history is woven into the woof of contemporary academia, equally cut-throat because knowledge is power. And if the weak are to be empowered, power must be stolen, literally, from the hands of those who have it. Easier when those manicured hands are wrapped around their gin glasses.

This is the background against which the story unfolds. All too slowly, alas, and with too many of the characters remaining adjectives: sneaky Dhruv, honest Madhavi, aged Pamela, sincere Shantanu, sozzled Anusuya. Mixed-up Uma, foreign-educated, returns to her homeland to find herself still a wanderer. Columbia-based Madhavi returns to make a bid for the post of director at a new foundation. Dhruv, her contemporary and erstwhile lover, is the other contender. Pamela, their beloved teacher and retiring director, must decide. Then there's a child called Tomatokutty, and assorted New Men: Madhavi's...

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