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The Brown Sahebs tells the story of India as it put on the clothes of a democracy while its body and soul remained a colony’s. It tells the story of power changing hands from the white sahebs to the brown sahebs who kept the inequality between the rulers and the ruled intact. The novel depicts the final phase of India’s freedom struggle, the opulent but troubled lives of rulers, the emergence of Oxford and Cambridge-educated leaders who were friends with the British, the new capital of India which came to be known as Lutyens’ Delhi and life in India in that slow-paced time. It also brings to life the influence India’s leaders had over the uneducated and impoverished masses who created a groundswell of popular resistance against British rule. Among these great men was Gandhi who finds a special place in the novel but was consigned to be a portrait on the walls of free India.

The story is told by an old hermit fleeing persecution by the government. His tale is about Teekra, a small and dusty kingdom near Lucknow, the Raja of Teekra and his son, Prince Pratap. The hermit dies leaves his manuscript in the care of a journalist. The novel unfolds as the journalist reads it: The somewhat comical Raja of Teekra is befriended by a leading nationalist leader and joins India’s freedom struggle. A tragic life awaits Pratap and Malati, the girl he loves, while the Raja is made the Minister for Reforms in free India with the mission of decolonising the country. The Brown Sahebs leaves with the reader a perspective on post-colonial developments in India, a favourite colony of the British. A recent review of the book said, “It is astounding that a subject fit for socio-political academic research could be transformed into such a powerful novel.”

The novel will bring a reader up to speed with the democratic aspirations of Indians and the intense questioning that has for the past few years taken place in the country. It connects India’s present to its past – much of India’s current problems and frustrations are buried deep in its history – and explains why India has the largest residence of the head of a state, the only capital city owned by the government where the common people have no place, where old colonial laws live on, and countless other remnants of the British Raj which survive and thrive in free India, now under the rule of The Brown Sahebs.

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