PSYCON, the debut novel of author Varun T, is a socio-political thriller. I must acknowledge the author for his attempt to take up the current political situation of India as the background of this novel and open it’s pandora’s box, even if it is just a work of fiction. Set primarily in the hinterlands of the country’s most notorious and populous state of Uttar Pradesh, it traces the journey of its protagonists, Prateek and Yash, from the confines of a corporate in Pune to the clutches of the CBI.
Prateek Subramanium and Yashwardhan Sharma, in the interrogation room of CBI, are being grilled by officer Ajay Kaamte in relation to the abduction of Dalit activist Acchelal. Since the case involves a man from the caste which is a vote-bank for the political parties of UP, the State Government of MS Yadav’s Samuhwadi Party asks for help from the Center, in hopes of saving their own asses for not being able to locate Acchelal but majorly, for the Prime Minister to enter into the scene so that Yadav can sabotage him at the opportune moment. The PM personally gets involved in the case, assigning Kaamte the reigns of the case while announcing on social media that he will bring Acchelal back in the next 48-hours.
Kaamte has already lost 1/4th of the time allotted by the PM to the two young men sitting in the CBI headquarters, who maintain their ambiguity, letting him decide his next route of questioning. He threatens them with dire consequences if they do not reveal all that they know. Under the pressure from him, he senses that Yash is the weaker amongst the two, and pulls him away from Prateek’s gaze, into a separate room where Yash begins narrating their story, a story which jolts up Kaamte.
PSYCON, the brainchild of Prateek and Yash was incepted when they were given a lucrative deal by the ruling party’s member, Sundarlal, with the sole purpose of extorting money from those businessmen whose anchors were rooted in the ocean of black money. With an IT officer named Meena by their side, they embarked upon a journey unknowingly that it would lead them to the CBI interrogation room.
They would begin with the preliminary study of their target, provided by Meena, who as per IT records were tax evaders. After the estimation of their annual income, they would send across the IT notice accordingly – either pay up or face the ire of the IT department. Here was when the guys would enter, enticing the target with an out and out settlement, pay a certain amount to the IT department, and another to them as their consultation fees while the rest would be waived off. Further, the consultation fees would be passed on to Sundarlal via their handler Paglu, who in turn, would pay them their dues. Together with this way, they duped six businessmen before baiting the big fish, Acchelal. And that is when the tables turned, someone amongst them had other plans. Like the six others, Acchelal too had vanished off the face-off Earth but since he was a popular face, the case became high profile. The CBI was involved and Prateek and Yash were rounded up.
With all the shreds of evidence pointing towards Sundarlal, Kaamte has no option but to inform the PM and ask for the go-ahead to question him. While Kaamte waits for nightfall to visit the suspect, he receives a recorded distress call from one of the police stations who tell him that it was Paglu asking them to rescue him and Acchelal from goons out to kill them. After tracking the call to a remote place, Kaamte heads out with Prateek (he was once earlier kept hostage by Paglu there) while picking up Sundarlal on the way. As Kaamte parks his jeep and gets out to see a dilapidated building, a man resembling Acchelal comes running into him, and both collapse.
Kaamte tries to get up but is unable, his hands and feet are tied to the metal chair he is sitting on. Opening his eyes, he adjusts them to the horror in front of him, Sundarlal butt naked with limbs tied in a large drum, while Prateek, Paglu, and Acchelal look on. Realizing that things were not as they seemed, Kaamte asked Prateek for an explanation. It so happened that Sundarlal had killed Prateek’s father, an honest IT officer, and also defamed him for sending him an IT notice for evading tax. It was only when Meena, his father’s friend at the department informed him of the anomaly in the records, that Prateek understood the whole scene and vowed to take revenge. And today, he was at the last stage of his plan, with Sundarlal under his control, he makes Kaamte inform the PM that Acchelal had been found and Sundarlal, out of fear of an inquiry and humiliation, had committed suicide.
The novel deals with India’s termites – corruption and black money. The root cause of mostly all the crimes committed in the world’s largest democracy, they are there to stay for as long as there are people who harbor them. The author attempts to bring into light the effects of such activities on the common man, and how he can bite back when poked.
PSYCON is a fairly well-written novel. Apart from a couple of grammatical errors, the language seems fine. The plot seems to drag at the time when the author tells the story of the duo’s exploits in the same tone, same methods, same results, only the background differed. One can skip the pages and never come back. There are no two thoughts in saying that the theme is common and exhausted beyond use by the films made on it, but had the end not been as twisted as a jalebi, this book would have been just a literary echo of the same.