08 May, 2021

Lives Of The Fire-Dwellers

A collective bildungsroman takes in not only the personal journeys of five friends, but also the culture, politics and history of North India and Pakistan

Lives Of The Fire-Dwellers

Ashok Chopra is a successful publisher, having headed several leading publishing houses. He has also been a syndicated columnist. But books, writers and poets are clearly his first love. He has authored and edited several books, one of which, the very readable My Life with the Rich, the Famous and the Scandalous, comes to mind. However, this is his first ‘novel’—Memories of Fire is more of a skilful narrative of events in India and Pakistan in the 1970s and ’80s, rather than a work of fiction.

Nevertheless, the overlying theme is about five childhood friends—Balbir Singh, Radhey Sham Upadhyay, Syed Raza Ahmed Khan, Deepak Kumar and Vijay Thakur—and how life treats them in their juvenile and adult lives. Balbir is the Sikh son of Dr Waryam Singh, a “brilliant medical specialist” with an “85-bed hospital in Jullundur”, while Radhey Sham’s father, Seth Raja Ram Upadhyay, is a “well-known chartered accountant” with considerable ancestral property. Both families are wealthy and close...

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