Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Yatrik: The Journey Within

It was a Saturday evening in South City, the shopping mall. And it was chaturthi, just before the Durga Puja. A huge number of people focussing on their last moment Puja shopping were strolling through various floors, moving in and out of different shops. But Shreya and I were not visiting Pantaloons or Shoppers Stop. We were in Starmark, the book store which also sells DVDs, gift items, folders, perfumes and even foreign chocolates. Just near the entrance there is a rack with all the latest books, a few books on politics, Mahabharata, sports. There were a few books from foreign authors. Also there were books from so-called new age Indian writers who wrote about sweet love and college hotties in their books intended for India’s youth.

We however were looking for a different book and despite searching through various sections of the store we started fearing that the book may not be yet released in Kolkata. Hence we asked one attendant in the shop and he after consulting with another couple of his colleagues finally handed me the book from one of the almost-hidden corners of the fiction section. They said that the book arrived just day before and I wondered how that could reach such a farthest corner in just a day! The book we were looking for was Yatrik, the third book written by Arnab Ray aka Greatbong. Well, I just wanted to write this to show like everything in life how in the publishing industry also it all depending on the marketing and publicity but not on the quality. Not good news for potential writers with no connections like me!!

Arnab has a long presence in the Indian blogger community. After spending a considerable time writing blogs on topics ranging from Lambu Ata (Who ultimately got his 'Maut ki Chnata' in the movie Gunda) to Twilight saga to his local sweet shop he ventured into writing books. Obviously his first book was different from his regular blog posts in the web but the themes were similar based on his style of humour and satire. He did not only get the attention but rather turned a few heads on the way.
His second book ‘The Mine’ can boast as the first Indian horror novel. A rather dark plot line with multiple twists to shock the reader, the mine is a wonderful psychological thriller which made me finished that book at one go. At that time I could not stop myself from writing a review for ‘The Mine’.

Yatrik is nothing like any of the first two books. Yes, it may come as similar to ‘The Mine’ but that may be because of the death being a common theme in both the books but the similarities just end there.
Yatrik means a traveller. And the book focuses on the journey of Anushtup, the main protagonist of this book, the journey of his life. Although the book started with a death in the first chapter but Yatrik eventually talks about the life.
Anushtup is a typical Bengali guy. Like any one of us he gets confused about life, makes glaring mistakes while judging someone, get disillusioned of politics once he knows all the dirty tricks of it and has a huge ego which make him leave his home and stay in a slum but stops him from taking unfair help from others, even if they are their closest relatives. And despite being the story of a regular Bengali guy, the book does not move in a straight, one-directional way. It moves with twist and turns. Old myths were broken; truth starts to lift his ugly head from the past, people changes, perception changes too.
Questions were answered, unanswered questions like ones which keep bugging us all through our life. Don’t all us have some questions in our life for which we never know the answers! Why everyone in my class did get 82 in life science in the board examination? Why that one close friend of mine stopped contacting me just without any reason? Why do I did not crack the interview I was so confident about? Yatrik tried to identify some of such answers and tried to break the myth about destiny. Ultimately every event in life has some explanation which may not be clear to us because it happened when we were not looking.
Despite being in US for quite a long time Arneb can still paint the city of Kolkata quite accurately with its various characters. There is a call centre boss, a shopping mall bunny, a political leader, a financial chit fund… small incidents which brings out the uniqueness of the city through Anushtup’s journey of life.
Yatrik is a beautiful read and I want to make just a couple of points for Arnab to keep in mind while writing his next (And I know he is busy in quite a few ongoing projects). I was not convinced with some part of the book near the end and think that plot could have been tighter but again Arnab being the storyteller can argue that he was convinced when he thought about that part of story and he thought that plot was the best for the overall story.
The second observation is regarding the dialogues. I think it is already mentioned in Abhishekda’s blog and I kind of agree with him. I feel Arnab gets confused about what should be the right mix of English for his Indian characters. It’s always easy if you are writing dialogues for an American or a British character as they are speaking English all the time and has a significantly different way of expressing themselves. Whereas for a Bengali character, who is a simplest of common man in his mid forties, it’s not always easy to picture in one’s mind regarding how he would speak in English without sounding too snobbish or sounding too cool.

At the end I would say, after ‘The Mine’, the expectation was very high from Arnab and to me he has delivered successfully with Yatrik, the story of one’s journey of life. Now the appetite has just increased and I am waiting eagerly for his next.

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