Multilayered plot featuring a plethora of characters makes this novel about contemporary India a place I wouldn't like to visit. Don't expect the romanticism of the Taj Mahal. This is modern India where the deep divide of language, wealth, class and customs makes life, for some, difficult, sad and brutal and I found the violence in this story very disturbing. In all honestly recent novels about India seem tame in comparison.
Sometimes it was difficult to locate a reason to beat Tope. The boy tended to steer clear of his path and to keep his voice down. Then Dakota would summon him and berate him for his indifferent performance in school, and follow it up with some really tough time-and-work sums. Tope Singh would struggle with the maths, his limbs and mind already going numb at the thought of the thrashing to come. For variety's sake, Dakota Ram sometimes used his cane, sometimes his canvas belt, somethimes his army boots, and sometimes just his big hands. He never hit the boy with all his strength - that would have killed him - but with just enough to hurt him. In fact, the rage only rose in Dakota after he had begun to whack him - it was the boy's squealing that got his juices going. The first blow was always desultory, cold; the last always hard, heated.