Manu Prasad's Reviews > Animal's People

Animal's People by Indra Sinha
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Jul 25, 11

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"I used to be human once. So I'm told. I don't remember it myself, but people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet just like a human being.." That's how the book begins, and sets the tone and perspective for the book.

The title of the book could have been built around Khaufpur (based on Bhopal and its 1984 tragedy) as well, after all, the entire story hinges around the one night that changed life in the city forever. But Indra Sinha's success lies in creating a character whose very existence is a testimony to the horrors of that night. The humanity, or rather the inhumanity of it all is taken to a different level, largely because of the protagonist - Animal. Animal, a 19 year old boy in Khaufpur, whose personal takeaway from That Night is being forced to go on all fours.

In most other aspects, Animal displays the emotional state of a typical teen with love, lust, jealousy all vying for his attention. It is his pragmatic, mostly raw and guttural perspective and wry humour that gives the book its character. It makes it real enough for the reader to connect with the other characters in the book - Pandit Somraj, the singer who loses his voice thanks to That Night, his daughter Nisha, who is the love of Animal's life, but who loves Zafar, the activist whose mission in life is to get justice for the victims from the 'Kampani', but whose objectivity Animal questions, partly because he is a rival to Nisha's attentions, Farouq, Zafar's helper and Animal's friend and enemy all at once, Ma Franci, a nun who has become senile in her old age and the person Animal loves most, and Elli Barber, the doctor who gives Animal hope, while others treat her with suspicion. Animal's narrative gives life to these characters.

Except for a stretched ending, this book is a compelling read, one which makes you look at a faraway incident - in space and time, with a human and humanitarian eye.

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