11 Aug / Delhi Noir edited by Hirsh Sawhney [in San Francisco Chronicle]
Whenever my kids start singing “Crazy Kiya Re,” still one of their favorite songs after multiple trips to India, I find myself having to leave the room. Since reading the 14-story anthology Delhi Noir, I can’t disassociate the Bollywood hit from the police officer who hums the catchy tune after raping his latest victim a third time in the story “Hissing Cobras,” by Nalinaksha Bhattacharya. Bad cops, angry victims, desperate addicts, heartless killers – according to this compilation, Delhi has got them all.
Delhi Noir, edited by Brooklyn/Delhi commuter Hirsh Sawhney, is the latest in the Akashic Noir Series – published by New York’s Akashic Books – which offers city-based collections filled with pulp fiction written by an eclectic mix of those cities’ locals. The series debuted in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir and has since grown to include dozens of cities around the world, among them San Francisco.
Lift the tourist-ready gloss off most cities and you’ll discover the corruption beneath. Amid Delhi’s signs of a world-class economy – upscale malls, sprawling subdivisions, luxury import cars – Sawhney writes that “the everyday depravity and anguish of Delhi life remains confined to news copy.” Good crime fiction by Delhi dwellers, Sawhney adds, is near impossible to find because “[a]ny insight into their hometown’s ugly entrails would threaten their guilt-free gilded existence.”
All that death and destruction make for disturbingly entertaining reading – perfect to throw into the beach bag.
Sawhney has gathered writers “willing to see Delhi as it is,” dividing their stories into three parts mimicking “three popular slogans that are tattooed across the city”: “With You, for You, Always,” the Delhi police motto; “Youngistan,” a spoof of Pepsi ads designed to target India’s 200 million young people; and “Walled City, World City,” a newspaper campaign urging Delhiites to forget the city’s complicated past, riddled with fatal riots and colonial history. [… click here for more]