In Times of Siege

“Hariharan writes with anguish, pain and anger about what is happening to our country. I put In Times of Siege on top of my list of books that must be read.”

Khushwant Singh

What makes a fanatic? A fundamentalist? What makes communities that have lived together for years suddenly discover a hatred for each other?

New Delhi, in the year 2000. Staff meetings, lesson modules, a half-hearted little affair with a colleague — this is the bland but comfortable life of Shiv Murthy, a history teacher in an open university.

But disruption and change are on their way — an outspoken young woman with a broken knee comes into his life and turns it upside-down; then Hindu zealots attack his writings on Basava, the reformer-poet. With fundamentalism landing on his own doorstep, Shiv discovers that the ideas he has inherited – about history, nations and patriots – are shrinking day by day. And the time of siege is not exclusively Indian; prejudice speaks different languages but has the same destructive message: ‘Only trust those of your kind’.

With love, lust, and a perverted nationalism at his heels, Shiv is forced to confront the demands of his times and choose a direction for the future. But first, he must come to terms with his own incomplete past, his fears, and his obsession with a woman who will give him the strength he seeks.

Sometimes funny, often moving, this stark, contemporary narrative unfolds the story of ordinary lives besieged, of men and women struggling to make sense of hatred, ignorance, love and loyalty – in individuals, ideas and the nation. Sharp and gripping, and permeated with a chilling sense of menace, In Times of Siege holds up an uncompromising mirror to India today.

From Reviews

“Githa Hariharan’s new novel, In Times of Siege, is not only quite as contemporary as today’s newspaper, but tomorrow’s as well. That is what makes it literature – i.e. news that stays news – rather than mere journalism.”
Alok Rai, Outlook

“A heady mix of myth, modern mores, politics and lust… Heartbreakingly funny, moving and as relevant as today’s headlines.”
The Washington Post

“Thoughtful and perceptive… succeeds in illuminating the siege-like mentality that exists when extremists set the agenda for intellectual culture.”
Publishers Weekly

“Hariharan amplifies the themes of courage, dissent and responsibility in her protagonist’s private life… The result is an engaging portrait of the mild-mannered professor, who, even as the crises engulf him, marvels that his scholarly discipline ‘has become a live, fiery thing’.”
The New Yorker

“Intelligent… [Hariharan’s] deceptively simple prose belies the artistry of her phrasings and she writes with an infectious concern for her characters. She excavates the rich layers of Indian history and, at the same time, exposes the intricacies of Murthy’s internal conflict and personal life, revealing that the past and the present are always more inextricably linked than we presume.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Witty, insightful novel…”
The Seattle Times

“A disturbing fictional portrait of the ideological polarisation and sectarian conflict that in recent years have permeated every facet of life in India. Hariharan captures Shiv’s besieged existence with just the right amount of angst, confusion, polemic and humour. Hariharan has written… [a] persuasive work that tells of the perils of sectarianism and silence in the face of oppression.”
Far Eastern Economic Review