Kiran Nagarkar’s explosive first novel was in Marathi. Now you can read it again

An excerpt from a novel described as stormy, hilarious, and moving in equal parts.

Since I had come to Poona, there had been my room, the library, and me. Sometimes, for days on end I didn’t feel like touching a book. Those cool green walls. I was almost driven to bash my head against them. Occasionally I did.

From the window I could see the top of the hill, and from April to June, the pink and white blossoms of the cassia tree. As I walked up and down the stone floor, thoughts ricocheted in my head. I turned up the volume of the transistor radio to drown them, but it disturbed the people on the floor below. “Turn that bloody thing down. If you’re so fond of music, shove your radio into your navel.”

So many people at the university. Boys. Girls. You’re so pretty. May I talk to you?

I want to talk. Talk and talk and talk. What shall we talk about? The college spread over miles. The hill was within the grounds too. And the trees. With their brittle yellow leaves, like crisp crackers. Naked trees waiting for new leaves. Shivering in the cold wind and the early morning mist. Just like me. All bones. All arms. Arms with so many hands. Hands with long fingers ready to plunge into eyes. Pointing to each other. To the blue sky. Not a soft blue, but a dark, cruel blue, a careless blue blue.

And in the middle of that blue, the sun – colourless. Aloof. On its own. Belonging to each one of us. Your sun, my sun. White hot, so white that it hurts to look at it. But it’s there, hiding behind the hill, burning the blue sky a darker blue, scorching the yellow leaves yellower. Leaves that float to the ground like so many thoughts. A leaf was blown by the wind and started to fly away. Up it went. A crazy leaf. Where’s it off to? Who knows?

Just one direction, three hundred and sixty degrees of directions. Whichever way a thought points to is its destination. Look, there’s a hole in the air, and all the wind’s rushing out of it. Leaf from the branch. Leaf on the road. Leaf within a thought. A thought at the core of a leaf. Come along, breeze. Let’s blow away.

I couldn’t stop talking. She was studying physics. She stared at me, her chin propped up on her right fist. How is it you read so much literature then? And how she read! Books I hadn’t even heard of. I have reading sickness, she said. Always at the top of her class. What do you do with your scholarship money? My father puts it into a bank account. Can you imagine it, my money and I can’t lay my hands on it?

“I’m off now. Do you realise you’ve been talking for four hours? Aren’t you tired? I’ll never drag you off for a cup of tea again!”

“I paid for the tea, remember?”

“Oh? You mean you wouldn’t have talked if I had paid? I like that. I’ll never buy you a cup of tea then!” She didn’t turn back to look at me. Just cycled away, very fast.

Every time I saw her, she looked different. Even if she wore the same sari. When she forgot her bike, she sauntered up the street. If we met outside the university, she didn’t speak to me. Tossed her fringe and shook her head in silent warning.

She lived with her elder brother and his wife in Poona. They were her guardians. Religious, righteous, very proper. She never opposed them openly, because life was easier that way. Her square-faced sister-in-law recited to Aaroti her husband’s bedroom frolics. “I’m telling you all this for your own good. Maybe you’ll be married one day, your brother and I will certainly keep trying for you.”

Her generosity would overwhelm Aaroti. She would mimic her sister-in-law for me. “When you are married, you will sleep with your husband. Then you’ll remember what I’m telling you now. Men are very strange. The man you see as your brother during the day is a different man in bed at night. Absolutely different. You should see him. He’s insatiable. When he wants something, there’s no stopping him. The things he does, how he forces me, the tantrums he throws inside me...” If I looked embarrassed, Aaroti would tease me, “Don’t you want to know more?”

I never had enough time. As soon as Aaroti gave me a new book, I went straight to my room and plunged into it. My landlady cautioned me. “Electricity costs money and money doesn’t grow on trees. Don’t forget to switch off the lights when you go to sleep.”

She wore old-fashioned nine-yard saris and walked into my room without knocking.

One morning she came in at a quarter past six. I had just stepped out of the shower and was stark naked. I had an early lecture that day. She looked me up and down. Slowly. Surveying every nook and cranny of my body. I reached for a towel to wrap my nakedness.

She came very close and poked me in the ribs. “I began my menopause five years ago. Are you afraid I’ll rape you?” She ran her fingers through my hair, found it wet and rubbed it dry. It felt good.

“What an ungrateful wretch you must seem to your parents. How old are you? Seventeen? Eighteen? And they brought you up to look like this? Even a vulture wouldn’t descend on you. Why don’t you look after yourself? I know you read a lot, your room is full of books. Why don’t you spend a bit of time living? Instead of living through books. Fool, that’s what you are, a fool. That Canetti of yours, Halldór Laxness, Pär Lagerkvist, I’ve read them all. When you’re not here, I borrow your books. Some of them write beautifully, some are just a load of rubbish. However, they can look after themselves. Take books in your stride. You’re here to live, not to worship books. Drink milk. And switch off the lights at eleven. Going to lectures at seven thirty and reading till four in the morning – does that make sense? I’ve never seen a man abuse his body like this. Get dressed or you’ll run a temperature just to spite me.”

I was stunned out of my wits to hear her speak English. I couldn’t move. “Go on, put on a shirt,” she said and left.

Excerpted with permission from Seven Sixes are Forty Three, Kiran Nagarkar, translated from the Marathi by Shubha Slee, Harper Perennial.

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Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.


In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.


Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.


The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.