‘Know that fate has a way to make you bend to its will.’
Four decades. Three individuals. Two families. One epic story… Bikram, the only son of an impoverished family, enlists in the British Indian Army hoping to draw a modest income. But greed seduces him into wealth and violence, corruption, and a murky political career. Basanti, a twelve-year-old Bajigarni girl, navigates fraught new boundaries with her nomadic clan to build life and home afresh. But destiny seems always stacked against her beauty and idealism—until one frighteningly triumphant moment in which she reclaims her fate. Ajit, the erstwhile Zaildar of a vast and thriving estate, also functions as the respected patriarch of a loving family. But tragedy strikes him in rapid succession; unmoored, he plunges into despair. The decisions of these memorable characters, and the consequences thereof, ripple across generations in poignant moments of sorrow and exhilaration. Their lives intertwine in unexpected ways, playing out against a canvas of intricate family dynamics, class struggles, the drama of politics and manipulation, and the tumult of Partition. Independent India comes of age as the protagonists evolve—fractured, but heading towards a new dawn.
Colourful and evocative, Paper Lions draws a vivid picture of Sikh faith and history in its depiction of Punjab from the 1930s to the 1960s. Koonar writes a deft narrative of breath-taking tension: a riveting novel of deceit, calamity, intrigue, and resilience. As intimate in human drama as it is vast in scope, this is the big Punjab novel for our times.