Night of Happiness by Tabish Khair (forthcoming)

Category: Fiction
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India (forthcoming)

This is a beautifully understated and haunting story of a man making sense of a world that does not make sense.

Anil Mehrotra, a young, successful, privileged and metropolitan entrepreneur, has set up his thriving business empire with the help of his lieutenant, Ahmed, an older man from a different background and a small town. He has come to trust the slow-moving, slightly odd Ahmed, who has shared Mehrotra’s good sense and reasonability. Ahmed is multi-lingual, caring, dependable, undemanding; he talks in elaborate sentences and bothers no one. But when, one stormy night, Mehrotra discovers an aspect to Ahmed that cannot be slotted or understood, he is forced to find out more about his lieutenant.

As layers and layers of Ahmed’s history are peeled off, each layer revealing a slightly different man – or so it seems – Mehrotra confronts his own suspicions and doubts. Does Ahmed really have a wife? Does he keep the wife imprisoned in his flat? Is Ahmed totally crazy, or just very superstitious? Or is Ahmed, like Mehrotra, just making desperate sense of the chaos that afflicted him in the past? Can Ahmed be relied upon anymore? Should he be fired, for the sake of the rationally run business that Malhotra has built up?

Mehrotra takes a reasoned decision finally, but what happens afterwards escapes the limits of his reason. It is this story, his and Ahmed’s, narrated by Mehrotra in a desperate bid, like that of the ancient mariner, to seek redemption in the understanding of a stranger.