Main characters Information about the main characters of the novel

Inspector Deo Prabash: Police chief of Mahaban, in charge of the investigation into the death of Wyndham Charles. First description of him: “Inspector Deo Prabash was a large man, with a big voice and big, bullish eyes. His office was small and he filled it. I got the impression that intimidation was his more usual method of detection. He wasn't using it on me: he sat reclined in the chair behind his desk and his tone was easy, affable. He had been interrogating me for thirty minutes or more before showing me the body - a shock tactic? - and I still couldn't decide whether this chatty attitude of his was an innocent device or part of some trick of confidence meant to entrap me.”

Wyndham Charles: Aid worker, formerly with the Red Cross, now working on his own. Dead from the start of the novel, but seen throughout the book in flashback. First description of him: “His dedication couldn't be faulted. Just his desire to take risks. In only a few weeks at the hospital, he had gained a bad reputation. It was a wonder a sniper's bullet had never found him, his colleagues said, or the shrapnel from an exploding mortar shell. It was only a matter of time before he got someone killed, probably himself. At the time I had thought of this rash attitude as bravery - when I had stopped thinking of it as stupidity - but perhaps it was simply a corollary of knowing his actions were both selfless and for the greater good. Soldiers in action have this same blind courage, the same unquestioning belief in the rightness of what they do, creating a narrowness of outlook that can justify almost any action, no matter how extreme. Moral conviction can be a horrible thing in the hands of the zealous, a philosopher's stone able to turn base murder into glory.”

Me: A washed out journalist, posted to Delhi to cover the elections, set to be the divisive, and bloodiest, in years. India: the place where I had been born, the country where my son had died. This quote describes me: “All the things that had occurred in my life over the past nine months existed in me in some black shape, however well or otherwise I had come to terms with them, a repository of hurt which it was impossible to resist. Even love couldn't diminish it. In some ways, I thought, that was all my life had been over those months, simply an effort to resist this irresistible force. And I still wanted there to be one sole cause of all that pain. I still wanted to make Wyndham that cause. It was hard to accept that there was no one thing which had created it, not Wyndham, not my son's death, no single thing but an aggregate, and myself. What is it about the human heart, I wondered, that always makes it look beyond itself for the source of its own suffering?”

Carol Lal: Representative from the British Consulate in Delhi. Anglo-Indian. My lover. First description of her: "She was younger than I had thought, twenty-something... slender, elegant. She was wearing a sari of green silk boldly patterned with gold shapes. Her face was small, childlike in a way, but there was a firm set to her jaw and her voice had gravity. Her accent made sense to me now. It had the same Anglo-Indian mixture as her name, faintly Midlands but with a certain roundness of tone, as if words were soft shapes meant to be moulded into pleasing forms. Death lost its sting when she couched it in her grave, gentle phrasing."

Howard Danka: American photojournalist, very political and opinionated. First description of him: “Howard had been hoping for a ground offensive, providing him with a possible way into the country and giving him a chance of some real war coverage. The conflict was far too anaemic, he complained. Bloodshed: what kind of a war was it without bloodshed? This wasn't quite the way it was - lives were lost, blood was shed - but not here, not within reach of his camera lenses, and more importantly, not American lives or American blood. There were only so many times the American public could see pictures of fleeing refugees and still reach inside themselves and find compassion for these people's plight. How many times? About once or twice, Howard thought, three times at a pinch.”

Ravi: Indian journalist, old friend of mine. Early description of him: “But he wasn't asking me. Here was another lesson, a further demonstration of the moral decay into which (he thought) his country was sinking. I loved his passion; his rants and raves on minor injustices could be riveting; but at heart, Ravi was the worst kind of newsman: he cared too much. Detachment and clinical observation were, for him, impossible qualities.”

R.K. Kumar: Politician, standing in the upcoming elections. Early description of him: “He was widely tipped to take over as leader of his party when the present incumbent stepped down, could very well become a future Prime Minister of India. The delays in the legal process meant that his case - his several cases - wouldn't be heard for years to come, and if and when he became Prime Minister he could well find himself serving office while on bail, not unheard of for a politician in India - in fact it was something of a growing trend - although a definite first for the country's premier. Even this, however, was of no consequence when it came to voter appeal or lack of it. What had upset the electorate was his party's toughening up of the anti-Muslim stance which previous governing Hindu nationalist parties had necessarily softened in order to achieve power. R. K. Kumar, a staunch proponent of Hindutva - India for the Hindus - was seen as the architect of these reforms, which had polarized public opinion along sectarian lines.”

Dr. Rahul: Stationed at a hospital in Delhi, assistant to Windham Charles. First description of him: “He smiled briefly, as if in apology. It was a strange smile, a nervous flighty thing, like a fluttering moth attracted momentarily to something bright about his face. His voice had something of the same quality, gentle and winning and yet at the same time slightly edgy, uncertain, as if he wanted you to like him but was unsure of whether he deserved to be liked. It gave him the appearance of a respectable rogue, or a reformed confidence trickster who felt naked without his shield of lies. The raffish frizz of his hair, the crumpled clothes and nervous, quick-blinking eyes only added to that impression.”

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