A racy read by Arnab Ray, Sultan Of Delhi: Ascension is about a weakling boy who has had modest beginnings but quickly works his way up the bad world. A premise you must have encountered several times in literature and cinema, but where this film stands in its own is that apart from a criminal world, it also offers glimpse into the way businesses materialised (and to an extent still does) in India.

In the first of a two-part novel, we’re introduced to an unrelenting Arjun Bhatia, who we gradually learn has come to Delhi from Western Punjab in 1947, and has nothing but a small piece of gold in his possession. His entire family is killed during Partition, save him and his father, who becomes a vegetable from the shock. At his most vulnerable state, Arjun longs to become someone who never feels this helpless ever.

This book charts the ascend of Arjun’s career from a mechanic to a gun runner to a powerful businessman who’s known by people. It reveals his personality in bursts, in constant narrative jumps that make the reading fun and interesting. I wouldn’t equate the story with the likes of Godfather, but this book romanticises a criminal in equal measure.

The characters are brilliantly sketched. Arjun’s personality and inner self is revealed through his relationship with these characters – his father, sons, wife, mistress and daughter. The women in this book stand should-to-shoulder with its men, and that’s a rare thing to witness in Indian fiction.

There are several loose threads in the book that the author will address in the second part of the series. Arnab Ray’s Hinglish makes quick connection with the reader, and the few Hindi words that he has added reveal the true essence of the statement, profane or otherwise. Eagerly looking forward to Part 2.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

This review is part of the blog tour organized by Hachette India.

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