The Long Sacred Games

I’ve been playing the long sacred game with Vikram Chandra’s ‘Sacred Games.’ I started reading it in April 2007 and I just finished it in October 2009. The reason? It’s not a great book but it’s got a great premise and I’m a sucker for Bombay underworld stuff outside of the Bollywood saccharine ouevre. So I kept reading. I started the 960 page novel in earnest, liking the mirroring back and forth nature of the history of , the gangster vs the present day investigation by the copper, playing that sacred time-resistant game of catch and chase. But the book’s so bad man. It’s riddled with clunky dialogue, boringly cartoonish gangsters, a supposedly sage Sikh sleuth who might as well have a mac and a massive magnifying glass. The only pots boiling are the ones sizzling with bheja fry on the side of the Mumbai road. Then there’s the gangsta, who’s obviously got mum and dad issues and is a good guy gone bad, he’s so pathetically untough and unevil that you spend half the time wondering how pussyfoot the slumlords of Mumbai must be if this guy is allowed to rule them with fear and opulence. By this point, I was invested in the landscape and I was about 200 pages in to a 960 page book when I realised what it was that annoyed me so much about it, and this is despite the unbelievable hyperbole heaped on it by literary reviews in broadsheets. It’s if you read for more than 3 pages at a time, the bad dialogue and worse metaphors really start to sting. If you read in short bursts, you can kinda cope. So the book became my toilet book.

I kept the copy in the loo and whenever I was there for a longhaul or what became known in my household as a three-pager, I’d dip in and meander through the plot. And doing it slowly, over a long period of time, whilst devouring harder, stronger, better, faster books made this little act of poo-reading a sacred game of discipline. And 30 months later, I finished the bad boy. And I still think it’s massively overrated but it doesn’t matter, because it gave me a slow and interesting insight into the Mumbai underworld, something I’m endlessly fascinated with and if it meant relegating reading about it to three-pager time then so be it.

What next for my toilet book? Infinite Jest?

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