Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
How is this storytelling style, with a multiplicity of narratives,
different from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, the book The White Tiger, or other stories you've read or heard about contemporary India? Did any perspectives surprise you, or show you a side of India you hadn't seen before?
What were your first thoughts about the protagonist? Did your
perception change as the story continued? The author has said he
chose an "acidic, dyspeptic, carping, dislikable" narrator because
that was the best way to open up the highly complex, polyphonic
material of contemporary India. If the narrator had an earnest,
sincere voice, do you think the story would be more banal? By not
creating sympathy for the narrator, does the author make you feel
more empathy for his story of India?
The question of fatherhood and responsibility arises several times in the text. The sardar feels he didn't do enough to train his son for survival. What skills are necessary for survival in this
story? How could the hit men, or the protagonist, have been better
prepared for the events at hand?
You get a glimpse of each assassin early in his life. The author says he wanted to establish that "in the beginning, there is a kind of innocence in all things." How did the world shape each assassin into the kind of man who would kill another? How did it change your relationship with these characters?
What did you think of the narrator's relationship with Sara? Do
you think she was misguided? What is the significance of the image
of the goddess Kali, and Sara signing "Your humble
This story is deeply rooted in the Bhagavad Gita. What role does Hinduism play in Kabir's life? Chini's life? What about the life of a character like Ghulam, "who imagined god would take the larger view of the equality of supreme gods"?
Did you believe Iqbalmian when he told the protagonist
that the latter had been saved by his dog? Why or why not? Do
you see any similarities between the protagonist's journey and
The author says the five killers represent five "fault lines" of India: caste, religion, class, language, and feudalism. With whom did you empathize? Why do you believe that character felt most resonant to you?
Why did you think Bajpaisahib was after the protagonist? Were you right, in the end?
How does knowing that The Story of My Assassins is based on true events change your understanding of the story? What emotions or scenes feel most "true" to you? The author says only one or two scenes were based on his own life. Were there parts you felt sure were made up? Why?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Melville House.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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