Eavesdropping behind the curtains

The honest season is a searing allegory about what goes on behind closed doors in the circles of power 

Shubhda Chaudhary Delhi 

`The Honest Season’ is a book about the lack of access that common people have to sources of power. It is about the deals that are struck in Parliament and the Assemblies that only get out when they are exposed by the media. The story is about six conversations secretly recorded inside the Parliament premises on issues ranging from allocation of ministries in the Union Cabinet to how politicians get away with communal riots.

The narrator is a young, single woman in Delhi who was left at an orphanage as an infant. The book questions the indispensability of women in a society that is driving them to the verge of extinction by oppressing them, silencing them or plain murdering them. However, this young woman, Mira, is special because she is born with the power of telepathy enabling her to peer inside peoples’ minds and understanding how they make their decisions.

Mira works as a journalist for a Delhi newspaper and it is here that she practices her powers of telepathy. Given her exceptional Charles Xavier like powers she can do the sort of journalism that no one else can. Perhaps, that is not so difficult for the women of our country who are intuitively taught how to gauge the minds of the menfolk around them. It is a sad reality of life that for many women in our country earning the displeasure of the men in their life can have dire consequences.

As a journalist, the author Kota Neelima has seen religion enter every level of politics imaginable. She has also been witness to the unfortunate results of such political opportunism. These predatorial tendencies emerge when political parties try to engineer election results based on religion and caste. Voters are given a choice, not between the candidates, but between two candidates of the same caste or religion, which ultimately is a Hobson’s choice. The government elected on these lines will always kowtow to the religious sentiments of the people, an oft-repeated phrase in our polity today.

The book also raises several pertinent questions. Why do people vote back politicians who have failed them time and again? Is intolerance inherent in our social fabric? Is achieving secularism an impossible aspiration? Or is it that we forgive easily, tempted by the castles in the air that politicians build for us? As an author and an Indian, Kota Neelima is confounded by these questions and wants to explore if politics is ultimately  a mirror of our society.

We may need to redefine secularism for the sake of the idea of India. Religion cannot be separated from politics and public debate if as citizens we do not get to know what happens to the minorities in our country. With a population of 20 crore, the minorities of the nation cannot be ignored based on their religious identity. There is need to ensure they are in the mainstream political participation, but without becoming prey to political opportunism.

Thus, the Honest Season is an eye-opening account of the internal politics that takes behind the closed doors of the Indian Parliament. It shows how citizens of a country become brainwashed and indoctrinated over the course of time. It is a timely book.