This is what it felt like to be a bomb. You were coiled up, majestic with blackness, unaware that the universe outside you existed, and then a wire snapped and ripped open your eyelids all the way around and you had a vision of the world that was 360 degrees, and everything in your purview was doomed by seeing.
I picked up Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs a week ago, after seeing it on the National Book Awards longlist for fiction. I’ve been on a literary fiction trajectory these past few weeks, after being immersed in the brilliant work of Colson Whitehead and Brit Bennett.
We live in a time of war. While the ongoing civil war in Syria is the most apparent, the struggle for power around the world has created tensions met with varying degrees of violence. There are threats of nuclear bombs being detonated, militant groups vying for territories and threats of violence in different parts of the world: Philippines, South Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.
But what counts as a “bomb” is not just merely physical, but on political, social and emotional levels as well. After all, no one saw this bomb coming: Donald Trump winning the election. What Mahajan explores in the book are not just the actual bombs, but the interconnected-ness of the origins, the bomb itself and the aftermath.
At the heart of the story is Mansoor, a victim of the Lajpat Nagar market bombing in Delhi, India. He was only 11 years old when the bombing happened, killing two of his friends — the brothers Tushar and Nakul — instantly. The brothers’ parents, Vikas and Deepa Khurana, spent the subsequent years in alternating periods of rage and grief, as Mansoor and family tried to heal from the tragedy.
People were closest to animals when they were sleeping and fighting for wakefulness. Or dying and fighting for life.