Animal’s People: Indra Sinha

This book was shortlisted for Booker Prize 2007. Thanks to Booker, people are aware of this book and it has not gone unnoticed. I had heard good reviews about this book and many people even predicted this book will win. That is a compliment for the book and reason enough for me to pick it up.

The story is based on the Bhopal gas tragedy. The author has chosen to set his book in Khaufpur, a fictitious city, the name describing the effect of the incident. The narrator is Animal, one of the many victims of the incident ‘that night’. He is speaking into a ‘tape mashin’ (machine) left behind by a ‘Jarnalis’ (journalist). The victims of Khaufpur live with the hope of getting justice one day, in the form of compensation from Kampani, the factory which leaked poisonous gas that fateful day.

Animal is thus named because of his bent back. He walks on four and hence no longer consider himself a human. With mangled sentences and words (namisbond, jamisbond), it takes a while to get used to the book. Sinha peppers the whole book with enough swearing and cursing to an extent that it got on my nerves. Sinha tries hard to maintain the tension and tone, but wavers a bit in the later chapters.

The author weaves in other threads in the book. Elli and her sacrifices, Zafar and his ideologies, Nisha and her emotions, Somraj and his helplessness, and of course, Animal and his ‘heavy monster’.

The book is heavy, literally and figuratively. This book does not attempt at showcasing the poverty stricken, sympathy seeking India. There is one paragraph where Animal justifies India and its position to Elli. I think every foreigner should read this paragraph and hope some will change their outlook of India.

Kudos to Sinha for refreshing our memory by writing about the gas tragedy which has altered many lives and somehow has not been taken seriously enough.


7 Responses to “Animal’s People: Indra Sinha”

  1. Ellen Says:

    I am happy you reviewed the book, but I don’t think you are doing it justice. Below is the link to my review for (although I had to break it up because it didn’t work otherwise).
    Also, Bhopal is not over. Right now (March 12 2008) a group of survivors are marching yet again to Delhi to demand justice. We all have an opportunity to make a difference if we go to and sign the petition, send a fax to the Prime Minister, and make our voices heard.
    Take good care,

  2. Scott Hughes Says:

    The book sounds interesting even though I don’t know much about the Bhopal gas tragedy. Would it be worth reading if I don’t already know about the tragedy upon which it is based?

  3. Anaamica Says:

    Yes, you can read the book without knowing the background story. Give it a shot, you might like it.

  4. John Self Says:

    I agree. I didn’t know much about Bhopal before I read Animal’s People – and I think that is the intention, as Sinha has been a great campaigner for the cause for years and probably wanted to bring it to wider attention.

    Of course, books written with a ‘good cause’ in mind are sometimes not very good on a literary level, but I thought Animal’s People was a triumph, mainly because of the wonderful voice of Animal, funny, profane and disarming.

  5. sowmya Says:

    Is Indira Sinha male or female? The name sounds female but you refer to the author using masculine gender.

    “The author has chosen to set his book in Khaufpur, a fictitious city….”(From your review above)

  6. sowmya Says:

    Never mind! IT is a guy!!

  7. anaamica Says:

    I also made the same mistake of reading his name Indira (with an I) instead of Indra. For a long time, I was under the notion that it is a female.

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