Tarun J. Tejpal: Crime, Caste, and Corruption

NEW YORK, October 4, 2012 — Asia Society hosted acclaimed journalist and author Tarun J. Tejpal for a discussion of his book, The Story of My Assassins, first released in India in 2009 and published in America this month. 

Assassins is a thrilling read influenced by events in Tejpal's life some years ago, after he and his news organization Tehelka helped expose high-level corruption in the Indian government. After discovering that five men were arrested for plotting his murder, Tejpal found that he recognized none of his assassins when face-to-face with them at his court case, which prompted the question: "What would lead five men to take a bit of money to murder a man they've never seen?"

Tejpal answers this question in Assassins, redeeming his would-be murderers by exploring their childhoods, proving that the world wronged them long before they wronged the world. Though not the true stories behind his real-life assassins, these fictional portraits, Tejpal asserted, detail plausible trajectories for the "poorest of the poor" in India today.

Tejpal expressed the importance of conveying empathy for India's lower classes, given that the ideals of India's upper and middle classes color Indian media in the West. The silver lining to the situation of the dispossessed in India, Tejpal stated, is that they have recently acquired a sense of entitlement, creating an India of "flux." And though Tejpal acknowledged that this sense of entitlement clashes with the selflessness with which India's founding constitution was drafted, the passionate author assured his audience that the Indian people are well on their way to finding a happy medium between the two.

Reported by Renny Grinshpan

Video: Highlights from the program (3 min., 49 sec.)


Watch the complete program
AsiaSociety.org interview with Tarun J. Tejpal
Shop AsiaStore for The Story of My Assassins