What would be the state of the nation if a deranged bureaucrat was the one who ruled India? Shovon Chowdhury’s The Competent Authority explores precisely that possibility. India is a gloomy place in the novel, which is set in the near future and in an India devastated by nuclear attacks. But amid all the devastation, chaos and idiocy are four utterly unheroic heroes who gang up against The Competent Authority.
The world of this novel is fabulously imagined and Chowdhury has the rare gift of being able to make even the bleakest scenarios seem ridiculously funny. Can a 12-year-old mutant, a corrupt policeman, a dejected CBI officer and the last surviving member of Al-Qaeda triumph against a mad bureaucrat?
All we’ll tell you is that this is perhaps the funniest and most sophisticated satire on modern India that we’ve read in a while.
The Competent Authority
By Shovon Chowdhury, Aleph,
454 pages, Rs 495