In the conservative household we girls were told to stay away from the boys from the Muslim community. There was a time in my life when my brother presumed that I had a Muslim boyfriend and ratted it to my father and I had to face the music. Well, certainly I didn’t have a Muslim boyfriend or boyfriend for that matter, and though father apologized for his illogical temper yet that incident remains etched in my mind forever. Prelude to a riot by Annie Zaidi reminded me that and much more. ‘Remember, I am a 90s born and we have seen riots.

Prelude to a riot is set in an unknown town in the south of India. It is a story of a motley group of characters connected to each other one way or the other. This a weft and warp style of storytelling we see here.

Zaidi begins by introducing us to an “it,” the ghost of which looms large on the minds of the characters throughout the book. “He should be able to see it coming,” says Abu, Fareeda’s brother. Fareeda is clueless about this “it.” Some of the charactersters are instigators of this “it” and some are the victims to be. Through this “it” we delve into the thoughts of the characters, see their greed, double standard, anger, melancholy and fear. Zaidi shows us how this “it” slowly makes the cut before “it” will make the world bleed.

The book subtly weaves a drama that’s injected with patriarchal pressure, bigotry, social disparity, labour exploitation, and communal tension.

Looking at it from afar, it seems like an episode but within you see the turbulence of different minds. And this episode is about to unleash a deluge that will cause irreparable damage and a lot of trauma for decades.

The book isn’t a linear narrative. It is presented in the form of soliloquys, letters, poems, advertisements etc.
It progresses with the perspectives of different characters. The author dexterously manages to switch the voices from a 15 yo to a 70 yo as we read on. The writing is intense, engaging and enriching.

This “Prelude” to riot not only speaks about the riot that might break between two communities but it also speaks about the riot brewing within the minds of the characters.

Overall, the book effortlessly and boldly, speaks up against injustice faced by a certain sections of the society. The trauma and the crime against the less privileged which often goes unnoticed. And, the upper hand the privileged class enjoy as well as their staunch, stealthy and stinking mindset.

Rating – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publisher – Aleph book co
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