I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the #Bookstagram tour today for A Burning by Megha Majumdar so I wanted to keep spreading the word of this incredible debut by posting about it on here too.
The story is told through the viewpoint of three characters, each leading different lives, as they are caught up in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a train in India. Jivan, a poor Muslim girl, posted on Facebook after the attack drawing the attention of the authorities; Lovely, a Hijra, has dreams of becoming a famous Bollywood star; and PT Sir, Jivan’s former gym teacher, who has aspirations of his own after becoming involved with Hindu nationalist politics.
“You smell like smoke,” my mother said to me.
So I rubbed an oval of soap in my hair and poured a whole bucket of water on myself before a neighbor complained that I was wasting the morning supply.
There was a curfew that day. On the main street, a police jeep would creep by every half hour. Daily-wage laborers, compelled to work, would come home with arms raised to show they had no weapons.
In bed, my wet hair spread on the pillow, I picked up my new phone—purchased with my own salary, screen guard still attached.
On Facebook, there was only one conversation.
These terrorists attacked the wrong neighborhood #KolabaganTrainAttack #Undefeated. Friends, if you have fifty rupees, skip your samosas today and donate to—
The more I scrolled, the more Facebook unrolled.
This news clip exclusively from 24 Hours shows how— Candlelight vigil at—
The night before, I had been at the railway station, no more than a fifteen-minute walk from my house. I ought to have seen the men who stole up to the open windows and threw flaming torches into the halted train. But all I saw were carriages, burning, their doors locked from the outside and dangerously hot. The fire spread to huts bordering the station, smoke filling the chests of those who lived there. More than a hundred people died. The government promised compensation to the families of the dead—eighty thousand rupees!—which, well, the government promises many things.
I found A Burning to be a thought provoking read. It deals with issues of class and prejudice through a story many of us in the west remain shamefully ignorant of. It’s a timely read that I think will encourage many, and certainly me, to learn more and educate themselves further. It is a difficult and harrowing book to read at times, the sense of injustice is so strong throughout – so many feelings are stirred up. For a relatively short, fast paced book, Majumdar has created something truly evocative and emotive. It’s a deeply impressive debut.