Reading Ret Samadhi and Tomb of Sand is exhilarating, challenging, even exasperating; such is its span and scope, its playful exuberance and idiosyncratic originality of style, playing out differently in the two versions. Given its more recent American/English avatar, one may evoke Whitman: it is vast, it contains multitudes. Given its incontrovertible rootedness in its Indian-subcontinental milieu, however, one must invoke the Mahabharata, the grand epic that it references at the very outset.
The postscript to this novel says it is dedicated ‘to the brave Uttarakhand police officer, Gagandeep Singh, who saved a young man from a lynch mob’. This dedication indicates the story line that one can expect: it is about individual acts of courage against an establishment that is overwhelmingly powerful.The timeline of the story is three days. On day one, the protagonist, Arjun, an author who is not yet thirty-three, gets a call from one of his ex-girlfriends telling him that her husband has disappeared.