Monday, October 13, 2014

Yatrik: a word or two

Courtesy: Westland website
I had attended the book launch of Yatrik, which meant that I had missed out on the discounts on Amazon and Flipkart and had to pay the full amount on Crossword. I had vowed to extract the amount from Arnab if the book was a letdown.

It was not.

As Arnab has himself mentioned, Yatrik is a full-length novel, and is not a travelogue, despite the name. Though the name rhymes with hat-trick, it is also not a book on cricket. Yatrik is a novel, or if you mind the pun, a rather novel novel.

Yatrik is a beautiful book. As it was with The Mine, Yatrik has that ability to keep the reader hooked to the book, which is perhaps the finest tribute a critic can pay to a writer. It is addictive, it is a page-turner, it is well-paced, but that is not what Yatrik is about.

Comparisons with The Mine are inevitable, despite the fact that they belong to completely different genres. The Mine was grotesque, macabre, and one of the first successful attempts at horror by an Indian author. Just like The Mine, Yatrik starts off with a death in the first chapter. Then the courses change.

This review will not contain a spoiler (barring whatever is there on the back cover of the book), so you may read on. Yatrik starts with Anushtup (that is the protagonist’s name, and do not ask me why he chose that name) being told he is dead.

The usual afterlife stuff, I had thought. This will probably get into some deep philosophical reading. I will have to extract the cash from him. Or maybe get it wired. Or whatever.

But Yatrik went on at a breakneck pace. I kept turning pages. Characters were born. They evolved. They were dissected. New characters arrived. It was evident that unnecessary details had been pruned. The writing was more mature than The Mine.

Yatrik leaves with a hollow because it deals with life more than it does with death. Just like The Mine, it asks us with a few basic questions, perhaps the deepest of which is why we, most of us, believe in destiny to the extent we do.

The general consensus among the unsuccessful is that life has been unfair to them. They seldom question why. Yatrik makes you ask. It gives you a sneak peek behind the scenes of life. It makes you understand that while we are often victims of “destiny” ourselves, it is us who sometimes trigger the “destiny” that go on to make life unfair for others, thus bringing things to a full circle.

That is a philosophy few books deal with. Books typically use karma as the protagonist or the antagonist. Yatrik deals with the concept that karma exists, but one man’s karma can affect the other. It is not necessarily a one-on-one concept.

Kolkata manages to peek in throughout the book: Kolkata, as seen from the viewpoint of a politically active college student, of someone who works in a call centre or in a departmental store, is easily the other protagonist of the book. There is politics, both on campus and off it. Why, there is even a chit fund scam!

As for the cons, the dialogues could have been better-written. As with The Mine, I got the feeling that Arnab is still struggling to find the balance between English and Hinglish, and that is certainly not his fault. Most would have given in to the latter by now.

But we are digressing here. Yatrik is not only about Anushtup or Kolkata. It is about life; it is about the seemingly infinite cycle of highs and lows (remember chakravat parivartante sukhani cha dukkhani cha?); it is about realising that neither joy nor sorrow is permanent; it is about realising that life is all about moments we live and the art of cherishing them.

Do read it. It is not the usual yadda yadda. It is well-written, too.

***

PS: 
There is a very, very minor factual error in the book. I do not think many will be able to catch it. But then, The Chamber of Secrets, created a thousand years back, had to be accessed by modern plumbing...

PPS:
O Arnab, will you please re-visit The Coffee House menu card?

***

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