A small town infected by cheap politics, the grotesque reality of communism followed by riots, disrespectful relationships, and friendship - 'A darker dawn' attempts to unveil the reality of several Indian towns, whose stories remain unread in the concluding pages of most newspapers.
Having travelled and lived in many towns across India, author Rohit Gore did a smart thing by picking up the darker nuances of each place, those which contribute greatly to his second novel and justifies the title too. 'A darker dawn' introduces you to Amrapur; a small town in Maharashtra where four 12-year-old friends grow up embittered by the harsh realties of life. Vindictive teachers, bullying seniors, and bitter families, Dev, Avi, Jeet and Anita together face all that and much more.
Dev is a student-hero and the one all three friends look up to. It is he who challenges Bokade in school, the vindictive teacher whose sole interest is to teach the children a lesson (pun intended). His favourite prop, a thick wooden stick lashes out mercilessly on the kids at the slightest pretext. His callous and cruel conduct towards the children is translated into arty scars, fresh and old, that he bestows upon them as punishment. Dev, defiant by nature, is the cynosure of his prop. An outright rebel, he stands up against injustice in the classroom such as saving the new fat boy from getting browbeaten by the class bully, Jagan. His loyalty remains steady outside the school too, especially for his best friend Avi, the class-topper. Jeet, who gets rescued by Dev in class, is the collector's son and he soon joins the gang, which besides Dev and Avi, has the dimpled, blue-eyed beauty, Anita.
The four friends share everything together - the joy of discovering their little private river bank, the rutted path of which no one knows, the excitement of building a beautiful sand castle, committing an unintentional crime there and vowing to keep that guilty secret hidden in their hearts forever.
A communal riot rages through the streets, a curfew breaks out and the town weeps blood. The four friends hide in Sharif Miyan's tea stall, barely safe from the massacre and witness the murder of their saviour, by his own nephew. Shaken by the events, they meet at their riverside hideout only to be greeted by the bully-turned-goon Bappa, son of the most powerful man in town and Jagan's elder brother. The expected brawl goes out of hand when Bappa, the strongest of all, tries to drown Avi. In an attempt to save their friend, Dev and Jeet use their united strength to outdo Bappa. Avi joins in and the fight ends up stifling Bappa under water. They vow together to never talk about it and leave the town with their respective families.
One can never truly escape the past. The ghosts of their crime visit the four friends twenty years later, beckoning them to visit Amrapur again. An eye-witness suddenly rouses and reminds them of the sin they tried to brush under the carpet. Dev is now an active member and leader of the Naxalites, fighting devotedly for the rights of the poor. Jeet has managed to translate his silence into beautiful paintings and lives in London with his fiancee, Maggie. Avi has broken away from his money-minded family and set up his own company in Bangalore. And Anita has immersed herself into her rhythmic distraction, dance.
Unable to suppress and carry the blame, all four friends return to repent. This time, the vices are twice as big. A murderer-turned politician rules the town, a vengeful teacher waits with a new prop for punishment, a madman hungry to destroy his brother's murderers and a cynical creep who keeps the secret for twenty long years - Dev, Avi, Jeet and Anita are summoned to confront their childhood-past once again.
The narrative is smooth and vivid. Regular readers will be able to finish reading it in one sitting, thanks to the gripping plot. The end is a little melodramatic, almost like an action-packed Bollywood flick, but does justice to the otherwise animated middle and beginning.