The Sialkot Saga: A review

Ashwin Sanghi is an author I have taken note of since the days of Chanakya’s Chant, his story that merges history and current times. So when ‘The Sialkot Saga’ came out, I was very interested.
Right from the outset, the story comes across as one with a grand scale. Mr. Sanghi has attempted his broadest canvas yet. This is his magnum opus. The story starts in 1950, with occasional flashbacks to ancient India, right from Samrat Ashok.

There are two protagonists, Arbaaz Sheikh and Arvind Bagadia. The reader is a witness to the various crests and troughs that appear in the lives of these two characters, separated by the mainland of India – Arbaaz is in Mumbai, while Arvind is centred in Kolkata. Both are businessmen, with deals that are above board, below the allowed purview of law, and everything in between.

Arbaaz works for a don, and through his eyes, we see Mumbai go from Bombay to Mumbai. There are sections that read like a history book, with the rise of the underworld, the growth of the city and I was not surprised to find Dongri to Dubai in the bibliography section.

Arvind is a bonafide businessman who sets up his shop as an investment director in Kolkata. Kolkata does not get as much attention as Mumbai does, but the focus of the narrative is more to do with the tricks up Arvind’s sleeves.

There are other characters who get good quantities of screentime: their families, their confidantes and their adversaries. Another character is the country itself: one gets a sense of changing times with the different moments of destiny the nation has borne witness to.

The narrative flows smoothly through the decades, interjected by the peek into the past, where we learn of a society, with a secret that is passed down the ages. There is a twist at the end as well, but Sanghi has left clues in the narrative. If you were to have followed them, it will not come as a shock to you.

Even though this is no ‘Chanakya’s Chant’, the story engages you as a reader. The writing is Archer-esque at times and keeps you invested. I would give this a solid 3 out of 5.