A Novel History of Free India

Guilty of the crime of sleeping on the job, the lowly yaksha Prem Chandra Guha, is banished to India on a punishment posting. During his stay here, he must write a sufficiently riveting history of the land of his exile. Prem Chandra arrives in India on the first dawn of her independence and fate brings him to Netarhat, an obscure town near the forests of Chhota Nagpur.

It is here that he meets Manhoos, an orphaned urchin who repairs motor vehicles for a living, and his friend Mary, a feisty tribal girl from the nearby Santhal village. Assuming the shape of a common sparrow, Prem Chandra turns into an unobtrusive observer and follows the fortunes of Manhoos and Mary as they travel to Calcutta, and then to Rishikesh, Bangalore, Ahmedabad…

As they plunge from one adventure to another, a series of figures play key roles in their lives: the Naxal leader Charu Majumdar; Satyajit Ray, in his crisp dhoti and clipped accent; the ever-giggling Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; the powerful business magnate, Ameer Premji; and even a mysterious man with a 56-inch chest...

On the broader canvas of India, other events are playing out. Indira Gandhi declares an Emergency; a new party, the Jana Sangh, is formed; Siddhartha Shankar Ray cleanses West Bengal of Naxalism and Jyoti Basu brings in thirty years of Communism; somewhere, a dam is built, and hundreds of tribals are rendered homeless, elsewhere, a masjid falls, and a deadly virus rises…

The story of India, and some extraordinary Indians, from 1947 to 2022, Song of the Golden Sparrow is hilarious, subversive and moving in equal measure.


‘Electrifying! One of the most entertaining books I've read...Nilanjan Choudhury's imagination heeds no bounds. Funny and extremely moving’– NASEERUDDIN SHAH

‘The work of a skilled storyteller who has compressed a wide arc of knowledge into easily comprehensible nuggets for the uninitiated. What Stephen Fry does for the Greek myths, Choudhury does for Indian history’THE TELEGRAPH

""The writing is insouciant and keeps you hooked...this ‘tale’ about independent India looks back at the past with a different lens' – THE HINDU

"Fabled personalities of 1940s-50s India meet in Nilanjan P. Choudhury’s playfully fabulist satire...there is much to enjoy in this comedic meet-the-legends-lineup...a book with a large heart, one that's firmly in the right place." - INDIA TODAY

'In this brilliant satire on modern India, Nilanjan Choudhury mixes fact and fiction with the skill of a master storyteller. Song of the Golden Sparrow is the story of Manhoos and Mary, and mirrored in their tumultuous lives, is the history of free India from 1947 to 2022'– DECCAN CHRONICLE

"Once in a while, and a very rare one at that, one encounters a book that entertains and educates...a song of India for India." - THE BOOK REVIEW

"... effortlessly weaves his stories through decades - a raconteur par excellence." – SUNDAY MONITOR

‘Nilanjan Choudhury is a master of magic surrealism. A tour de force involving mythical beings and real-life figures, the narrative sweeps like a tornado through the history of modern India from Independence to the present day.’ – JUG SURAIYA, Columnist, THE TIMES OF INDIA

‘Nilanjan P. Choudhury mixes history, mythology, current affairs, and humour to create a fearless book. Song of the Golden Sparrow is a brilliant satire.’HANSDA SOWVENDRA SHEKAR, Sahitya Akademi Award Winner

‘A brilliantly conceived novel brimming with humour and wit that is difficult to put down.’BIBEK DEBROY, writer, columnist and Chairman, PM's Economic Advisory Council.