"Rajesh, their servant’s son, was a minister in the govt, and they were looking to sell everything to stay afloat."

4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Shivani Sibal's debut novel, <em>Equations</em>, published by Harper Collins lifts the veil off Delhi's elite—old and new.</p></div>

Shivani Sibal's debut novel, Equations, published by Harper Collins lifts the veil off Delhi's elite—old and new—and presents their lives sans any Instagram filters. The book is out on the stands from 20 July. Speaking to The Quint, Sibal quips, "Every reader is going to find someone they know in my book".

Let's see how many you can identify from this exclusive excerpt that gives a candid representation of Delhi's daily hustle:

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Cover of Shivani Sibal's debut novel, Equations.</p></div>

Cover of Shivani Sibal's debut novel, Equations.

Image Courtesy: Harper Collins


Waiting outside the lawyer’s office for interminable hours was difficult for Aahan. He was born with a place in this world, as the scion of the Sikand family, and took having to wait anywhere, or indeed any delay or inconvenience, however minor or justified objectively, as a personal affront, a marker of his diminished status. If that wasn’t bad enough, Parul insisted on accompanying him to every meeting and hearing. After all, it was through her uncle’s connections that the lawyer was giving them his time, this reduced fee, the commitment that he would actually show up when the case was listed. This gave her a sense of entitlement to comment nonstop about what should be done, could have been done, and wasn’t being done.

The factory was in a mess, there were labour problems, and there was the whole larger Nooriya problem to tackle.

The lawyer who he was consulting was a school acquaintance too – one who he wouldn’t have deigned to acknowledge in the school yard, possibly even bullied, and certainly never invited to his parties – and Parul’s Mausaji’s intervention was needed to ensure that he met them quickly.

And now, here he was, hoping that the learned senior counsel gave him adequate attention and would reach the court in time for the hearing, give it priority over his other cases.

The bills were astronomical whether the lawyers got the job done or not. Plus, he had to keep up appearances in his personal life too: business-class travel, imported cars, a lavish annual bash. The factory was mortgaged, the Shimla house title was unclear. He wouldn’t get much for it, even if it did come to him.

Someone more important than him entered the office, with a flurry of activity. ADCs, security people, hangerson followed. Mr More Important was ushered straight into Aahan’s classmate’s room, and his wait got a lot longer. He sighed and resigned himself to staring vacantly at the ticker on the screen before him, where a news channel was streaming on mute: ‘BREAKING NEWS: RESHUFFLE IN DELHI CABINET’.

Completely disinterested in politics, Aahan was about to tune off, when he saw a name chug by on the rolling list of ministerial berths: Rajesh Kumar, minister for Labour and Social Welfare.

How had he done it, making it look so effortless, seemingly overnight? Aahan smiled, despite himself, at the grit and gumption of his one-time playmate. He remembered his father, smirking when he heard that Rajesh had joined this new crackpot party, that he spent his time in Jagdambika Camp, supervising water tankers sent by the party to be delivered to those wretched people – they didn’t have a water connection, of course – even carrying the heavy buckets without spilling the precious liquid to the older ladies’ homes.

His father had patronisingly instructed Laxman Chacha to make Rajesh leave all this nonsense, he would get him a government peon’s job through his connections, which was the best that he could hope for, after all. Kya chaihiye usko zindagi se, Laxman? He would ask, while idling at a traffic light. Laxman would smile and nod deferentially, and keep his eyes on the road.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Shivani Sibal</p></div>

Shivani Sibal

Photo Courtesy: Harper Collins


Despite all the pressure and advice to the contrary, when it seemed like madness, Rajesh had forged on, and here he was, a minister in the state government. Aahan made a mental note to ask Rajesh if he could help him resolve the disputes with the factory labour union, to get them off his case and let him close down the unit without too much trouble.

He glanced at Parul, but by the looks of it, she had seen the news too. Her face pursed in a grim frown, exposing the cracks in her makeup, where it had settled into the inevitable crevices and creases on her once youthful profile. The harsh bluish office lighting gave her face an orangey hue and highlighted the crow’s feet along her eyes.

He knew his wife only too well, she wasn’t happy with this development, and was calculating how this would affect them, how it could potentially be used to their benefit.

They would remember 2015 as the year when Rajesh, their servant’s son, was a minister in the government, and they were looking to sell everything to stay afloat. Parul was thinking back to the day when she thought, in retrospect, that it all began to go downhill. It would have been 18 April, Aahan’s birthday, about a decade ago, give or take a year or two.

(This is an exclusive excerpt from Shivani Sibal's debut novel Equations, published by Harper Collins. The blurbs and paragraph breaks have been introduced by The Quint for the ease of readers.)

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