R. Sreeram makes his mark in a relatively new genre with his political thriller and debut book, Kalyug (Westland, Rs. 395).
The story opens with the sensational death of Major-General Qureshi, a decorated war veteran and one of the country’s topmost military officials.
The author takes the reader through a breathless chain of events, in which a coup occurs, toppling the democratically-elected government.
A writer, Balamurali Selvam, who has been persecuted by the earlier government, finds himself sucked into the thick of the things with the new regime, conflicts, factions and international interventions.
“In Kalyug I broke a norm by not having an obvious hero. An author is often seen as least productive. I wanted to see what would happen if Selvam, being a writer, is put into a situation where he is forced to take sides, instead of just opinionate.”
Sreeram’s deft handling of multiple plots, taut writing, detailing of characters and setting, and knowledge of politics — you would find a resemblance of some characters to real ones — stand out.
“I have always been interested in politics and come from a politically aware family. I was born and brought up in Kerala, where the Emergency, had a track history, the Eachara Warrier Case, for example. Generally, there are two views on the Emergency, one that it brought about some good changes and the other, that it had excesses,” says the literary consultant.
Sreeram began writing the book on 16 September, 2012. “I picked up whatever was happening in India at that time and wrote about it. Also, in 2012, you had a lot of things happening on the political front in India.”
Speaking of the research he did, Sreeram says: “There was a news report on an army column moving towards Delhi, which turned out to be a regular troop movement. I spoke to a lot of people on what they thought if a coup happened. I also spoke to experts about the constitutional validity of a coup.”
Kalyug , however, wasn’t the first book Sreeram set out to write.
The earlier book he attempted was Chakravyuh , which he will be reviving as a sequel to his first book.
“I found Kalyug easier to write. I wrote one chapter every Saturday. The first ten chapters were written this way. Through the week that followed, I would keep thinking about the next chapter. My strength as a writer is to keep track of the different threads, keeping the overall picture in mind and framing it into different chapters.” Sreeram developed a real interest in fiction in 2001, when he read Robert Ludlum’s The Prometheus Deception .
“The book has a part in which a plane is blown down by terrorists. The next day 9/11 happened. That’s when I realised fact is stranger than fiction.”
Sreeram well maybe among the tribe of engineer-turned MBA-turned writer, but he hasn’t treaded the usual path of writing formulaic books.
“I wrote satire on my blog and on my website. I have written poems and short stories. In 2012, I thought I was falling into a rut in my professional role. There was no variety. I either wrote or did coding. So I thought I had to write something.”