Title: Prey by the Ganges
Author: Hemant Kumar
Publisher: Wisdom Tree
Pages: 387; Price: INR 295
In an attempt to unveil the disturbing facets of Bihar during the early Independence era, it seems like Hemant Kumar has exorcised his experiences of the state in his debut novel, Prey by the Ganges. A heart-felt narration of ruthless murders, village politics, unabashed lust, revenge-laden intentions and more; the novel leaves no stone unturned to qualify as an attention-grabbing thriller.
The book opens on an eerie full moon night when Vaidya Shambhu Nandan, along with his servant Hariya, waits along the bank of river Ganges for his friend, Ravi. A terrifying scream breaks the silence of the night and Shambhu helplessly witnesses his friend being mercilessly thrashed to death by a gang of bandits. The reader is therefore made to witness gore at its worst at the very outset. After the bandits have left, Shambhu retrieves his friend's body, gives it an honourable cremation and swears revenge by his friend's pyre. With a nemesis in his heart, he begins a journey to Janak Ganj to resume his friend's unfinished plan and to avenge his friend's murder from the cold-blooded Thakur Gajanan.
At the crux is the story of two tyrants - Thakur Gajanan and Thakur Suraj Singh, both feudal lords of Janak Ganj and Narainpur respectively, their lust for power and mutual animosity for each other. Add to that an aimless hunt for a priceless diamond.
Thakur Gajanan is the typical lord of the land, irresistibly handsome and irrevocably evil. He is a cold-blooded dictator who attracts women willingly to spend their nights at his 'inner chambers', such is his dramatic depiction. Surrounding the chase game are other characters - Rajni, Thakur's beautiful and intelligent wife who decides to turn the tables once Shambhu enters the scene, the young and bold Etwari who is confident with her intentions against the Thakur and more. Gore comes back into the picture when Chanda, Thakurain's maid gets grappled by the psychopath Baabu and Laalten, and subsequently Chanda's father smashes him against the wall. What remains of Baabu is only a loose lump of squashed flesh and bones. Prey by the Ganges boasts of a thick plot with realistic characters that holds your interest till the very end.
For a debutant author, Hemant Kumar has been able to put together a mature and violent tale. His limpid narration of the story reflects his composed state of mind while describing the most evocative encounters. Prey by the Ganges is replete with passion, hatred, corruption and honesty, all of which is privy to the holy Ganges. However, the only faltering factor remains the explicit account of murders that somewhat lingers like a bad afterthought.