Was he sane? Was he a psychopath? What (and not who) was he? — These are questions that keep striking you days after reading The Sane Psychopath (Fingerprint Publishing; 240 pages; Rs 199) from cover to cover. And even as you keep wondering as to who can get you the answers to these questions, a few more — Why did it all happen? What made him do it? Did he actually hear voices? Was he making it all to save himself?– hit you. But before you try to convince yourself by thinking that it can happen; after all, we have grown up watching innumerable Bollywood flicks on related subjects or reading fictional novels which have somewhat similar storyline though not in such detail, you realise The Sane Psychopath has been inspired by a real-life incident.
One must admit author Salil Desai is a wonderful storyteller ie if one may call him so as he dons a number of other hats too. Pune-based Desai, an alumnus of Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) is a columnist and a filmmaker too. The author has presented an event from real life with such minute details and perfect characterisation that it seems that you are watching a movie, for such detailed narrative is seen in films only.
However, before you pick up The Sane Psychopath, a sane advice: There will be a point in time, most likely between the third and fourth chapters, that you will think of keeping the book aside – so detailed are the descriptions — horrific, scary and gory.
The story of The Sane Psychopath revolves around a Maharashtra state transport bus driver Shanker Lande and young and dynamic lawyer Varun Gupte. The story takes off when Lande goes on a rampage on the streets of Pune in an unattended breakdown service bus standing in the yard of Swargate Bus Depot, killing and injuring a number of people before he is stopped.
Even as the entire city is in a state of shock and wants justice for the innocent lives lost, Gupte amid all this tension, which has a political undertone too, decides to defend Shankar. He does not care about angering the masses, including threats by the city’s top political brass. He figures out that there is more to the picture than what seems apparent. He seeks the help of psychiatrist Kanitkar who had lost his son in the incident to uncover the truth on what made Lande take this extreme step.
The book follows the journey of both Shanker and Varun, taking us into their pasts and letting us know why they did what they did. What comes at the end is completely unexpected for the readers…
The Sane Psychopath is extremely well written and keeps the reader captivated throughout. The characters are relatable and as a reader, you seem to sometimes get caught in a Catch 22 situation on whether to sympathise with Lande or despise him for what he did. The author has very delicately tackled the issue of mental health as well too without going over-the-top about it.
The suspense and thrill make the story powerful and even when you anticipate what is going to happen, at least, in the first half, you can’t help but get scared with what’s coming.
The book ends on a completely unexpected note. As you turn the last page looking for more, you realise the story has already ended, and that’s disappointing. Desai leaves it upon the reader to interpret the ending and that, I feel, is the best part of The Sane Psychopath.
Do get a copy of the book and once you finish reading, do share your views on who should be held responsible for what all happened and why? Write in to [email protected] and we shall upload your views on the portal. There are some interesting goodies on offer for the first three entries. So, what are you waiting for?