The poignant memoir of two brothers raised under the dark shadow of Indian Partition who forged wildly different paths in life.
Dutta (Bloodlines: The Imperial Roots of Terrorism in South Asia, 2015, etc.) and his older brother, Kaushal (“Raju”), were born in the late 1960s to poor Hindu refugees in Jaipur. Their Indian father, a government clerk, had arrived in 1959, forced by the violence after the Partition to flee his homeland. From enjoying the status of Brahmin to living in a near-destitute condition, the family spiraled over the decades into “bitter shame” and familial squabbles, a toxic atmosphere in which Dutta and Raju were raised. While Raju was by nature precocious, charming, and daring, the author, in contrast, grew inward, becoming idealistic and shy. In moving, honest prose, Dutta follows the disparate trajectories of their lives. Raju became entangled in a relationship with a rich, older gay man, which propelled him into posh jet-setting and eventually a criminal life abroad. Meanwhile, the author fell in love with an American woman and followed her to America in 1986. Dutta went to school, became a research biologist and then, in an odd but determined turn, a police officer in Los Angeles and a professor of homeland security and issues-involved terrorism. Meanwhile, Raju descended into the life of a con man and, later, terrorist. Both were cancer survivors. The memoir opens with a shattering call from France, where Raju had married and was living, to notify the author that his brother had been incarcerated for murder. Throughout, Dutta captures the enormous sense of humiliation wrought by this crisis; in Indian society, he writes, “the responsibility for a crime lies not with the perpetrator, but with the entire family.”
A powerful memoir of deep loss driven by the author’s desire to get at harrowing answers to difficult questions.