Review of The Jeera Packer by Prashant Yadav

It took me a while to read The Jeera Packer due to various reasons: reading printed books is always difficult for me, my daughter had her final exams and, frankly, I didn’t want to read another “criminals being protagonists” book after recently having read The Sialkot Saga — I’m not a very big fan of book plots having underworld chaps bumping each other off and feeling heroic about that. Just not my taste.

But as I read, the book kept pulling me in.

I have never read a Chetan Bhagat book. Not even when one of my clients-friend wanted me to read one to get hang of the style and then use the style in the marketing ebook he wanted me to write for him, could I read beyond a few pages.

Ok, why do I bring in Chetan Bhagat these days? I tend to get repetitive sometimes. I’ll keep this in mind when writing about another book.

Reading a book is an experience for me. It’s never a pass time. It’s a relationship. It’s a personal interaction. For me, the way the writer expresses himself is as important as the plot, the story and the characters of the book. Call me prudish, I like my reading literary. I must feel that I am reading a writer. I can admit without any doubt that I really loved the way Prashant writes. With prudishness out of the way, let’s move on to the book.

The protagonist of The Jeera Packer is a former sharpshooter turned common man. He works in his kirana shop (general grocery store) with his wife. For multiple decades he has had no connection with the old comrades-in-crimes and the godfather of his criminal phase of life has now become the Chief Minister of the State. One of his old chums too has become an influential minister in the current government.

Criminals can’t leave the world of crime unscathed. Heavy price has to be paid, or heavy price has to be extracted, whatever works. For more than 20 years the protagonist, who was once the undisputed king of the world of sharp shooters in Uttar Pradesh and surrounding areas, has been living a life of obscurity, filling jeera packets in the basement of his grocery shop.

His old godfather is now the chief minister of the state. By chance he bumps into his old chum (who is a minister now) who used to be his fumbling junior and discovers that it wasn’t the fate or the benevolence of his godfather that has kept him alive for so many years. His father in law had paid a heavy price to keep him alive. On the other hand the person who used to be his junior was now a very big minister in the government while he was packing Jeera in his basement.

The realisation leaves him disturbed. He begins to feel a hollowness within. While he is quietly going through his existential crisis, his another friend tells him that every artist needs to create his own Taj Mahal that should be his ultimate achievement. The protagonist was a sharp shooter. Killing people was his art. To create his masterpiece, to create his proverbial Taj Mahal, he would have to carry out his ultimate kill. He decides to carry out the last shooting job of his life, even when it could jeopardize his life and leave his wife widow and son fatherless.

The story goes forward from many people’s perspective. The jeera packer tells the story from a first person’s account. Then the accounts of different characters are told as third person accounts.

The Jeera Packer is a mix of political drama, the trepidations of the underbelly of Uttar Pradesh, and if you may want to call it, the mid life crisis of a former sharpshooter who lives in an NCR apartment building with his wife and a college going son.

The political family perhaps draws its inspiration from a famous political family in Uttar Pradesh that was just in power. It shows how thin the line between the underworld and the political class is.

The narrative is very punchy, compact and sleek. It’s a thriller with all the elements of intrigue, murder and toned down drama. Despite most of the characters being criminals or immoral politicians, you can empathize with them. No judgement, no morality. Just cause and effect. Each character has its own story — — a trait of a classy writer.

I recommend you read this book. To better enjoy it try reading it in a single sitting or maybe 2–3 sittings. If there are long gaps in between, you tend to lose the pace.

Very well written. I don’t know if The Jeera Packer is Prashant Yadav’s first novel or he has written more. He has written with such an elan that you may think he has already published at least 10 books before this.