The Association of Small Bombs opens with violence: a bomb explodes in a crowded Delhi marketplace, killing two young brothers named Tushar and Nakul Khurana. Their friend, Mansoor, survives the blast. While Mansoor grows up haunted by the deaths of his childhood friends, Tushar and Nakul’s parents struggle to overcome their all-consuming grief. In a separate storyline, Karan Mahajan introduces Shockie, a bomb-maker from the northern Indian region of Kashmir.
By weaving together stories of those affected by this one market bombing — barely a blip in the fast-paced news cycle — Mahajan untangles the complex, harrowing worlds of those who cause and suffer from acts of terrorism.
“Now Mr. Khurana, who had been a troubled, twitchy sleeper ever since he’d become a documentary filmmaker years ago, began to suffer from dreams that impressed him deeply, and he never failed to discuss them with his wife or his collaborators. He didn’t mention that he was terrified during their nightly unspooling; that he slept in the crook of his wife’s armpit like a baby, his body greased with sweat, his leg rotating out like the blade of a misfired fan. But the dreams were truly notable, and in the first and most frequent one, he became, for a few minutes, the bomb. The best way to describe what he felt would be to say that first he was blind, then he could see everything. This is what it felt like to be a bomb. You were coiled up, majestic with blackness, unaware that the universe outside you existed, and then a wire snapped and ripped open your eyelids all the way around and you had a vision of the world that was 360 degrees, and everything in your purview was doomed by seeing.”
Karan Mahajan is the author of the novels The Association of Small Bombs and Family Planning. His writing has been featured in NPR’s All Things Considered, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Born in Delhi, India, he now lives in upstate New York.
Length: 288 pages
Main Setting: Delhi, India
Secondary Setting: Kashmir, India
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